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Tennessee bill would allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples on religious grounds

Chas Sisk, The Tennessean • Feb 14, 2014 at 11:16 AM

NASHVILLE — Tennessee lawmakers are taking up a bill that would let cake makers, florists and other vendors refuse service to same-sex couples who wish to marry, even if the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage were struck down.

A Senate panel is scheduled to debate a measure next week meant to give businesses the explicit power to turn down same-sex ceremonies if they contradict “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The bill comes as courts and legislatures around the country have been legalizing same-sex marriages, in some cases striking down state bans.

“We want to make sure we protect the conscience and religious freedom of businesses,” said state Sen. Mike Bell, the bill’s sponsor.

The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to take the measure up Tuesday, but already it has drawn criticism. The Tennessee Equality Project, an advocacy organization, says the bill would authorize widespread discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

Keep reading with our partners at the Tennessean.

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