The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act, HB1412, states that "any court decision purporting to strike down natural marriage, including Obergefell v. Hodges
, is unauthoritative, void, and of no effect." Obergefell v. Hodges
is the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer that made same-sex marriage legal across the country, including in Tennessee. The bill was filed by Rep. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) and Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet).
If passed, the act would defend any state or local government official in Tennessee from any lawsuit if that official refused to recognize the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. In other words, if Kentucky court clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, lived in Tennessee, she'd be protected under this act.
reported this weekend that this act could cost the state $8.5 billion since going against a Supreme Court order could cause the federal government to pull $6.5 billion in TennCare funding and $2 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (i.e. food stamps) funding.
The text of the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act is long and filled with conservative opinions on same-sex marriage the Supreme Court decision. Here's a little sample:
WHEREAS, The Constitution of Tennessee, Article XI, § 18, states the following: The historical institution and legal contract solemnizing the relationship of one man and one woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state. Any policy or law or judicial interpretation, purporting to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one man and one woman, is contrary to the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable in Tennessee. If another state or foreign jurisdiction issues a license for persons to marry and if such marriage is prohibited in this state by the provisions of this section, then the marriage shall be void and unenforceable in this state; and
WHEREAS, in Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556, 2015 WL 2473451 (June 26, 2015), five justices of the United States Supreme Court issued a lawless opinion with no basis in American law or history, purporting to overturn natural marriage and find a “right” to same-sex “marriage” in the United States Constitution and the fourteenth amendment; and
WHEREAS, the Obergefell opinion is “an act of will, not legal judgment,” and the “right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or th[e] Court’s precedent;” Id. at *24 (Roberts, C.J., dissenting); and
WHEREAS, the Obergefell opinion is “the furthest extension in fact—and the furthest extension one can even imagine—”of the United States Supreme Court’s “claimed power to create ‘liberties’ that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention;” Id. at *42 (Scalia, J., dissenting); and
WHEREAS, the Obergefell opinion is “an opinion lacking even a thin veneer of law,” Id. at *43 (Scalia, J., dissenting); and
WHEREAS, the Obergefell opinion “is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government;” Id. at *43 (Scalia, J., dissenting)
interviewed the Tennessee Equality Project's Executive Director Chris Sanders about this bill for our year-end cover feature. Here's what Sanders had to say about the bill: "The federal government doesn't preempt the action of legislatures. In other words, if the federal government gets wind of an unconstitutional bill being filed, they don't send a note to the legislature saying, by the way, you can't do that. What happens is the legislature passes its law, and it goes into effect. It harms someone, and then someone has the basis to sue the state. If passed, it could temporarily interrupt marriage equality."
If passed, Sanders believes the bill would eventually be struck down, once lawsuits make their way to the Supreme Court.
"I think they'll lose at every turn. That's why we all pray for [Supreme Court Justice] Ruth Bader Ginsberg every night," Sanders said.
On Wednesday, the state House of Representatives Civil Justice subcommittee will take up a bill that asserts that marriage should only be defined as being between one man and one woman "regardless of any court decision to the contrary."