Tennessee lawsuit would invalidate every marriage since June out of spite


 | America Blog | January 26, 2016

As far as this group of conservatives is concerned, prohibiting same-sex marriage is more important than allowing opposite-sex marriage. So much so that it’s necessary to invalidate every marriage performed since June, and put the government’s entire role in issuing marriage licenses on hold, until the Supreme Court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges.

From ThinkProgress‘s Zack Ford:

Gay marriage via Shutterstock

Gay marriage via Shutterstock

Just one day after a Tennessee House committee rejected a bill to nullify the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, the head of the state’s top conservative organization filed a lawsuit hoping to, at the very least, stall same-sex marriage. And he has the support of several state lawmakers.

David Fowler, head of the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT), filed the state suit in Williamson County, asking County Clerk Elaine Anderson to cease issuing marriage licenses until the suit is resolved. His contention relies on a mix of odd technicalities relating to the impact of the Obergefell decision on Tennessee law, particularly the idea that the state’s entire marriage statute was invalidated. He argues that because lawmakers would never have passed a marriage law inclusive of same-sex couples, there is no longer any law stipulating marriage for any couple, and thus all marriage licenses issued in the state since last June are void. This, he fears, exposes the pastors who join him as plaintiffs to liability, because a separate Tennessee statute dictates that it is a Class C misdemeanor to solemnize a wedding between two people not legally eligible to marry, punishable by a $500 fine.

As Ford notes, Fowler doesn’t go to very much effort to hide the fact that his lawsuit is part of a broader effort to get Obergefell overturned. He even laid out his strategy in a flowchart on FACT’s website. Not doing much to help himself in the court of public opinion, Fowler has also claimed that this same strategy could have been, and perhaps still could be, used to pick apart Brown v. Board of Education. Rather than integrate the schools, Fowler argued, states could have simply stopped offering public education altogether.

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