Womick proposes ending state marriage licenses

A state House “task force” has come up with no recommendation on what, if anything, the Legislature should do to oppose a U.S. Supreme Court decision that authorized gay marriage, reports the Daily News Journal.

But Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, has an idea: Get the state out of the marriage license business entirely.

Although supporters of marriage equality rights for gay couples celebrated the high court’s June ruling, Womick said during a Tuesday phone interview that Tennessee should revert back to being a common-law state on marriage and stop issuing licenses for couples to wed.

“That would take the state out of the marriage business altogether,” said Womick, who last summer suggested Republican Gov. Bill Haslam be impeached for not taking a stand in opposition to the high-court ruling and urged the state’s 95 county clerks in a letter not to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. “I think that’s probably the best approach given the legal climate.”

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, a Republican from Nashville, appointed a task force that includes state Rep. Mike Carter to examine how to respond to the court ruling, and the group will soon meet again on the issue, said Carter, a Republican from Ooltewah in the Hamilton County in the Chattanooga area.

“We’ve been meeting for months,” Carter said during a Saturday phone interview. “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen because I don’t know what’s going to happen. I have no idea on which way it’s heading.”

Nationally recognized authorities on constitutional law are involved in informing states how to respond to the court’s ruling, Carter said.

Womick, Carter and many other Republican lawmakers contend that the five justices in the majority of the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote overstepped the judicial branch’s authority with the ruling that made gay marriage legal throughout the country.

“This is a state-sovereignty issue,” Womick said. “They have no business ruling on it to begin with. What we have up there is an oligarchy of five individuals declaring their will on the rest of the country.”

If the state decided to stop issuing marriage licenses, people would still be able to go to church to obtain marriage certificates, Womick said.

“It used to be that way until after the Civil War,” Womick said.