October 2016 Church & State - October 2015

Tenn. Official Says He Won’t Perform Same-Sex Marriages

  AU admin

A Tennessee county official who performs marriage ceremonies but said he will not marry same-sex couples has received a warning letter from Americans United.

After marriage equality became the law in 2015 thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, Maury County Trustee Steve Konz said that he would no longer officiate at any weddings due to his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.

But Konz apparently changed his mind at some point. The Daily Herald of Columbia, Tenn., published a story revealing that Konz had been “quietly” continuing to officiate at weddings – but only for opposite-sex couples.

Konz claimed he has the right to pick and choose because he is also a former county commissioner, and when officiating weddings he is acting in that capacity – not in his current position as a county trustee.

“I perform weddings as a former county commissioner, not as trustee,” he told the Daily Herald. “I’ve kind of been told I can pick and choose [whom to marry] based on that. I have the right, not the obligation.”

But Americans United Staff Attorney Ian Smith disagreed. He said government officials cannot turn down any qualified couples if they choose to perform marriage ceremonies. Nor can Konz ask same-sex couples to seek out another official to marry them purely because of his religious beliefs.

 “Imposing such burdens on a same-sex couple demeans and stigmatizes the couple in a manner that violates the Constitution and other laws,” Smith wrote in an August letter to Konz.

Konz, who said he believes same-sex marriages are not “biblical,” told a Nashville television station that he has decided to stop performing weddings entirely.

“I just need to stop,” Konz said. “I don’t need to be sued. It’s not worth it.”

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