NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Kingston lawmaker has introduced a bill that on its face would allow someone to forgo performing a marriage ceremony if they don’t want to.

HB0878 by Kingston Republican Monty Fritts has already passed the House but still has at least one more Senate committee meeting before it becomes law.

According to the text of the bill, the proposal would add a new section under the provision outlining who in Tennessee can “solemnize a marriage” or perform a marriage ceremony.

A person shall not be required to solemnize a marriage,” is all the bill states after an amendment in the House Civil Justice Committee.

If passed and signed by Gov. Bill Lee, the bill would take effect immediately.

The original language of the bill pointed to conscientious or religious objections to solemnizing some marriages, though the amended bill makes no mention of religious or other objections.

Reporting from LGBT-friendly websites starting circulating the bill as a potential hit against the LGBT community, stating the bill would allow clerks to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples.

But according to Eric Patton, a local minister, that’s not what it does.

“The way HB 878 is written and what it says is it refers to the solemnization of marriage. Solemnization is what I do as a minister; it’s not what a county clerk does when they issue you a license,” he said. “County clerks issue the license; they don’t solemnize.”

Under Tennessee Code Annotated 36-3-301, county clerks are one of many people who are permitted to solemnize a marriage in Tennessee. Others are pastors, priests, justices of the peace, county mayors as well as current and former elected officials. But the law doesn’t say they are required to – only that they “may.”

Patton told News 2 that while county clerks in Tennessee are permitted to solemnize, not many do in order to prevent any legal issues if someone were to object to the solemnization, as well as for lack of time.

“They’re busy; they’re clerks, and a lot of people come through for marriage licenses, and they’re always looking for someone to do it, and they don’t have time,” he said.

Patton reiterated that state law already allows for certain individuals to refuse to solemnize marriages, making Fritts’ bill redundant.

“There’s nothing in the law right now that says anybody has to do any kind of marriage at all, so there’s no clarification that this bill provides,” he said. “This bill does nothing, essentially, except open the opportunity for a lawsuit.”

The lawsuits, Patton said, would likely be styled after the former Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who objected to certifying a marriage certificate for a same-sex couple in 2015. Fritts’ bill, Patton added, looked to him like a setup for a legal challenge not unlike Davis’s.

“The way they have vaguely worded this is that they’re trying to invite a Kim Davis-type lawsuit to go up against Obergefell, because they’re wanting to test the marriage equality law as it stands,” he said.

Further, Patton said, the open-ended wording of the bill would allow anyone permitted to solemnize a marriage to refuse to solemnize marriages between interracial couples or even heterosexual couples.

“The way it’s worded, you can discriminate against anybody for any reason, which is terrible,” he said. “The idea that you can discriminate against anybody is just wrong-headed and general Tennessee nonsense.”

While Patton has been tracking the bill since it was introduced this legislative session, no real movement or attention followed the bill until this week, when he said a story from a nonprofit independent news site characterized the bill incorrectly, causing a social media firestorm among his friends.

“It’s just wrong. The piece from Truthout that is now from The Advocate and that is picking up steam in the national space is wrong reporting, but it’s believable because of the chaos and the confusion that the Tennessee legislature is trying to do exactly with this bill,” he said.

News 2 reached out to both the House and Senate sponsor of the bill for comment on the legislation. As of publication, we have not heard back from them.

Hundreds of bills will be up for debate during the 113th General Assembly. Tennessee lawmakers shared their thoughts on some of the major issues up for discussion at this year’s legislative session.

What lawmakers had to say about: Abortion Ban Clarification | Marijuana Reform | Transgender Therapy and LGBTQ+ Rights | Dept. of Children’s Services | Education | Crime/Public Safety | More

You can also find daily coverage from the session here.