Judge dismisses one state lawsuit against same-sex marriage

A Williamson County judge says last summer’s same-sex marriage ruling represents one of the worst examples of courts “ignoring their proper role” and legislating from the bench, reports WPLN. But he’s nonetheless thrown out a long-shot attempt to overturn the Supreme Court decision.

Chancellor Joseph Woodruff accused five Supreme Court justices of overturning the will of democratically elected state lawmakers. ut Woodruff added he wasn’t going to make the same mistake by trying to reverse their decision to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage. Woodruff said if anyone was going to respond to the Obergefell v. Hodges decision with new laws, it ought to be state lawmakers.

“Our function is to apply the law, not to create it,” Woodruff said of judges. “The present lawsuit invites us to answer the legislative excesses of the Supreme Court with legislation of our own. This we must not do.”

That spells the end to one of the suits filed by conservative lawyer David Fowler that tries to challenge the same-sex marriage ruling.

Fowler argued that when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state bans on same-sex marriages, it took the rest of Tennessee’s marriage laws down with it. That means all marriage in Tennessee is invalid — not just the state’s ban on gay marriage.

But Woodruff determined the plaintiffs — three ministers and two other people who live in Williamson County — couldn’t show they’d been harmed by the Obergefell ruling. That means they couldn’t sue the Williamson County clerk and other authorities for issuing marriage licenses.

Note: Fowler commentary via email below.

release from Family Action Council of Tennessee
As attorney for the Constitutional Government Defense Fund, I am, of course, disappointed that the court ruled that ministers do not have standing to determine their obligations and liabilities under the state’s marriage laws after Obergefell and that citizens do not have standing to assert a violation of their state constitutional right to have their marriage laws “prescribed by the General Assembly” rather than by the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, I do appreciate the fact that Judge Woodruff said in passing that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision “deviate[d] from the judicial function” to “embark upon the creation of social policy” and in doing so “invalidate[d] the marriage laws of more than half the States.”

Thankfully, a similar lawsuit is pending in Bradley County, and we look forward to the opportunity for oral argument given to us by the Judge in that case. That other lawsuit, along with a possible appeal of Judge Woodruff’s decision, will provide us an opportunity to press forward in defense of the constitutional rights of Tennessee’s citizens that have been abridged by what we believe has been an uncritical and incorrect application of the Obergefell decision by other branches of government to the laws regulating marriage between state residents. The matter is far from over in my opinion.