A proposal giving businesses such as wedding photographers a legal way to refuse service to gay couples has been shelved for the year in the Tennessee legislature. The sponsor says it may be redundant.
The legislation created controversy just by being introduced. Opponents say it would codify discrimination.
In putting a hold on his bill, Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) is responding to concerns he’s heard from across the state. But after talking with three judges and a handful of lawyers over the weekend, Bell says he’s convinced a baker – for instance – could already refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding.
“At this time it’s my belief that Tennessee law does allow business owners to choose to provide or refuse services based on consumer conduct,” he said in a committee hearing Tuesday.
Sexual orientation is not a protected class, as it is in other states.
While the ACLU opposed Bell’s legislation, state director Hedy Weinberg says, “unfortunately, he’s probably right.”
“It’s another call to action for all of us who believe in fairness and equality to insist that our state does protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” she said.
Previously, Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) had sponsored the legislation – titled the Religious Freedom Act – which he says was designed to protect a pastor or singer from being sued and forced to participate in a same-sex ceremony.
Kelsey withdrew his name last week, saying this:
“I still believe in protecting the differing religious views of everyone in my district.”