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Republican Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (LifeSiteNews) — The Republican governor of Tennessee has signed a bill that allows public officials who have moral objections to homosexual “marriages” to not preside over them.  

Gov. Bill Lee approved House Bill 878 on Wednesday after state lawmakers passed the measure last week.  

Tennessee is widely recognized as one of the most conservative states in the nation when it comes to LGBT-related legislation, having passed more than a dozen pro-family laws since 2015.

“A person shall not be required to solemnize a marriage if the person has an objection to solemnizing the marriage based on the person’s conscience or religious beliefs,” reads the bill, which has been heavily criticized by left-wing lawmakers and organizations. 

GOP state Rep. Monty Fritts co-sponsored the bill. During a meeting with the Subcommittee on Children and Family Affairs, Fritts explained why he thought it was necessary.  

“As societal views change about what constitutes a marriage, officiants must be able to refuse to solemnize marriages that are contrary to their beliefs,” he said. “The government has a responsibility to protect the exercise of religious beliefs.” 

The bill does not empower state clerks or other employees to refuse marriage licenses, as was the case with Rowan, Kentucky, county clerk Kim Davis in 2015.   

State Rep. William Lamberth echoed Fritts’ remarks by stating that the bill helps make current laws more obvious.  

“There’s not a requirement to solemnize a marriage by anybody anyway,” he said. “But this will make it crystal clear: No one for any reason is required to solemnize a marriage, period.”  

Lee and Tennessee lawmakers have approved a slew of pro-family laws in recent years. Last year, he signed a bill that restricted drag show performances. He has also banned gender mutilation surgeries and drugs for minors and outlawed men from competing in women’s sports.