NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A House panel in Tennessee has stopped the furtherance of a bill that would have defied the U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding same-sex “marriage” and protected the rule of law in the state.
As previously reported, Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, and Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, filed H.B. 1412, or the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act,” in the state legislature in September to defend the constitutional amendment passed by 81 percent of voters in 2006.
“Whereas, not all orders claiming authority under color of law are in fact lawful,” the bill reads. “Whereas, unlawful orders, no matter their source—whether from a military commander, a federal judge, or the United States Supreme Court—are and remain unlawful, and should be resisted.”
“Natural marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman as recognized by the people of Tennessee remains the law in Tennessee, regardless of any court decision to the contrary,” it says. “Any court decision purporting to strike down natural marriage, including [Obergefell v. Hodges], is unauthoritative, void, and of no effect.”
The legislaton also quotes from Sir William Blackstone, whose Commentaries on the Common Law were used by attorneys and the courts throughout early America. Blackstone taught that a man’s rights come from God, and that all law must be based on God’s law.
“[The] law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in any obligation to any other,” Blackstone stated. “It is binding over all the globe in all countries, and at all times; no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this.”
The Blackstone Institute outlines that “[i]t was only in the mid-Twentieth Century that American law, being re-written by the U. S. Supreme Court, repudiated Blackstone.”
The Tennessean reports that the House Civil Justice subcommittee heard approximately 90 minutes of testimony on Wednesday from area pastors, attorneys and former legislators on both sides of the issue before voting on the proposal. Supporters and opponents alike also stood in an overflow area to learn of the results.
“I can tell you as a student of the Constitution … that there is nothing in federal law ever, ever, ever that gives the federal courts or the federal government constitutional jurisdiction in the field of marriage,” attorney Jeff Cobble told the subcommittee.
Some who expressed support for the bill said that perhaps nullification isn’t the best angle, and preferred a legal challenge in court. David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee said that he plans to file a lawsuit to challenge the Supreme Court ruling.
Ultimately, the committee voted to strike down Pody and Beavers’ nullification proposal, with only Chairman Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, who identifies as Church of Christ, giving a voice vote in favor of the measure.
Chair Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, who identifies as Presbyterian, along with Vice-Chair Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, who identifies as Baptist, and members Bill Beck, D-Nashville, who identifies as Baptist; Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, who is non-denominational; John Forgety, R-Athens, who identifies as Baptist; Jamie Jenkins, R-Somerville, who identifies as Methodist; Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, who is non-denominational; and Courtney Rogers, R-Goodlettsville, who identifies as Nazarene, all voted against the bill.
Jones said that she didn’t think the bill would be successful, partly because of the costs associated with it, and expressed concern that the federal government could retaliate by yanking $8.5 billion in funding to state programs.
“When the Supreme Court sends down a ruling, that’s what we do,” she said. “Trying to go through our committee system to change that is not going to work.”
But Pody and Beavers state that they are not going to give up. They have already filed another bill that “prohibits state and local governments from enforcing, administering, or cooperating with the implementation, regulation, or enforcement of any federal executive order or U.S. supreme court opinion unless the general assembly first expressly implements it as the public policy of the state.”
The Memphis Commercial Appeal notes that a November Vanderbilt University poll found that 52 percent of Tennessee voters “strongly” or “somewhat” oppose same-sex “marriage,” 32 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” support it and 14 percent don’t have a position on the issue.