National church files lawsuit over online marriage law

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A new law passed by the legislature to limit online ordinations for the purposes of weddings is now being challenged in court.

A new law pass by the legislature to limit online ordinations for the purposes of weddings is now being challenged in court. / Source: WVLT News

The Universal Life Church has filed a federal lawsuit to stop the law for going into effect on July 1st.

Representatives from the Smoky Mountain Wedding Association say they're optimistic that a judge will at least hear arguments as to why this new law should not go into effect. The law says anyone ordained online wouldn't be allowed to marry in Tennessee.

"Maybe we can get some clarification, maybe we can move forward and won't be as detrimental," said Ron Crivellone, Smoky Mountain Wedding Association.

In the federal lawsuit, the Universal Life Church says Tennessee's new law violates the church's constitutional rights along with its ministers and anyone who wishes to get married by the the ministers.

In a statement to WVLT News' Sevier County Bureau Chief Kyle Grainger, a few weeks ago State Representative Dale Carr said the law wasn't intended to put anyone out of business and they would meet to correct the law in a special session this summer.

"We did not intend to put anybody out of business, or to say if you got your degree online it was not valid. There's a certain one of two of those colleges out there that's already been earmarked. You send money and they send you any kind of certification you want. So those are off limits," said Carr. "We will correct it, we're not perfect, but we'll get it right. We even contacted the attorney that wrote that language, and he looked at it day before yesterday and said 'oh, I didn't mean it that way.' So it's one of those type of things you're in a hurry this is the last of the session and they're working 24 hours a day and they type out something."

In the meantime, the wedding association spokesperson says this law would impact the wedding industry in Sevier County. He's glad it's on hold for now and believes since the court will hear the case soon, they agree it would have impact as well.

"It's definitely something that could impact a lot of different businesses. A lot of different things in the state. So the fact that they're hearing it this close means they agree with the severity of it," said Crivellone.

The judge is set to hear those arguments coming up next week. The wedding association says as they understand, until the judge rules, that law will not go into effect so weddings should be able to go forward as planned.

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