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Church sues TN over law barring online ordained ministers from performing weddings

Posted at 6:05 PM, Jun 27, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Universal Life Church filed a lawsuit against Tennessee over a state law that bars marriages by ministers who are ordained online.

The rule was passed through the state legislature and will become law on July 1. However, the lawsuit asks a judge to issue a restraining order to the state keeping any marriages from being stopped.

A spokesperson for the non-profit Universal Life Church Monastery said they believe the state's law is unconstitutional because it favors certain ordained ministers over others.

The spokesperson said it's their opinion that the state shouldn't be able to limit who performs a wedding ceremony. The lawsuit claims the state law is unconstitutional.

However, attorney general Herbert Slatery said he plans to defend the law in court.

Some say they understand why the state decided to stop marriages from those who are ordained online.

"Most people who get married really want to do it for the legalities, for the solidarity of knowing they're taking care of one another. It would be terrible to get down the road and somebody said 'no, you weren't legally married' and you don't inherit anything," said Jane Billingsley, owner of The Chapel, a wedding venue in Nashville.

Billingsley said online ordination worries her because the people who are getting married don't know how well their records are being kept.

The ULCM spokesperson said they will take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if they have to. They also indicated they might sue other states who have passed similar laws.