Bill to allow clergy to refuse gay marriage fails in House

Friday, March 18, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 12

NASHVILLE (AP) — A bill seeking to underscore the right of Tennessee clergy to refuse to perform marriages based on religious convictions has failed in the House.

The House Civil Justice subcommittee on Wednesday defeated Rep. Andy Holt's bill on a voice vote. The Dresden Republican said he wanted to pass the legislation he had dubbed the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" in light of the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling of last year.

Committee members said that pastors are already allowed under state law to refuse to perform marriages for anyone they want.

Gay rights advocates raised concerns that Holt's bill could have extended beyond clergy to allow businesses to deny services based on their religious beliefs.

Similar legislation elsewhere has drawn a wave of opposition from big-name corporations and sports organizations.