Tag Archives: gay marriage

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. Continue reading

State to pay gay marriage lawyers $2M in fees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge has awarded more than $2 million to attorneys who helped gay couples in Tennessee win a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows same-sex marriage.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled that the results the lawyers got in the case were “superb and far-reaching” and that they should be entitled to costs and fees. The $2.03 million awarded in legal fees and expenses was 15 percent less than what the attorneys wanted.

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office had argued that the plaintiffs’ attorneys only deserved $1.1 million because of duplicated work, vague time-keeping and charging for attending news conferences. A Slatery spokesman said he had no comment.

In Michigan, lawyers representing same-sex couples were paid $1.9 million, while the attorneys in Ohio received $1.3 million, and in Kentucky they got $1.1 million.

The Tennessee lawyers who worked for the same-sex couples noted in court filings that they had already given the state a $1 million discount by not charging for more than 400 additional hours of work.

The attorneys worked for three couples who legally married in other states. They sued to challenge Tennessee laws that had banned recognition of their marriages.

Note: Previous post HERE.

AG wants to cut gay marriage lawyer fees in half

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery says 19 lawyers seeking $2.3 million for their work in overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage only deserve $1.1 million.

Further from The Tennessean:

In a court document unsealed March 7, Slatery says lawyers in other states involved in the historic civil rights case asked to recoup much less money. He says the lawyers in Tennessee’s case — who are from around the country — are trying to take advantage of taxpayers by asking for excessive and unreasonable fees.

“It seeks to compensate the work of a legal team that ballooned to 19 attorneys, billing a total of nearly 6,000 hours,” the state’s filing reads. It says the lawyers’ documentation of time spent working on the case is vague, and alleges they duplicated work and charged for things they should not have — such as attending press conferences.

Slatery says several of the attorneys, including Abby Rubenfeld and a team from law firm Sherrard & Roe in Nashville, were unnecessary to the case after Washington, D.C., law firm Ropes & Gray got involved to prepare to argue at the U.S. Supreme Court.

…In November, lawyers who worked on behalf of the same-sex couples filed a motion asking a judge for $2.3 million for their work. U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger will determine the amount of fees the lawyers should receive.

Detailed breakdowns of their hours worked on the case were sealed, meaning they were not available for public review.

Slatery’s response was also filed under seal, alongside a motion to make the hours-worked details public record. The lawyers for the couples responded by saying, essentially, we’ll unseal if you will too, and now all the documents are public.

The lawyers who worked for the same-sex couples note in court filings they’re already giving the state a $1 million discount by not charging for more than 400 additional hours of work. They say though lawyers in other states were paid less, each received nearly all of or more than they asked for.

House votes 73-18 to criticize gay marriage ruling

The House approved 73-18 Thursday a resolution expressing disagreement with the high court’s landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

The resolution (HJR529) was sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Old Hickory.

From The Tennessean:

During the floor discussion, Lynn called the Supreme Court’s action “very dangerous,” saying the court’s decisions should not be allowed to set or change Tennessee law.

“If we let them do this today, they will do it more in the future. We need to speak up as a legislature,” she said.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart, of Nashville, said advancing legislation such as Lynn’s as well as bills pertaining to sniper rifles and skunks is distracting the chamber from focusing on more important issues. He questioned whether passage of the resolution would have any impact.

After conceding that the resolution coincided with a lawsuit filed in Williamson County that seeks to halt the issuing of marriage licenses until a court settles the matter, Lynn told Stewart, “What we’re doing here is very important.

Note: See also Jeff Woods, who includes this statement from Tennessee Equality Project:

TEP condemns House passage of HJR529 today on the House floor. Though it has no legal force, the resolution insults the LGBT community with yet another vote on something that should not be voted on, namely, basic rights. The resolution furthermore celebrates lawsuits against local governments in our state, which will take up the time of county clerks and the resources of taxpayers. Yet, the Legislature refused an amendment by Rep. Sherry Jones, which would have required the state to pay for legal costs associated with the lawsuits. Legislative attacks on Tennessee’s LGBT community have become desperate and bizarre.

Beavers seeks resurrection of ‘natural marriage’ act

News release from Sen. Mae Beavers
NASHVILLE, (February 29, 2016) — State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) today reiterated support for legislation she is sponsoring in the Tennessee General Assembly to defend marriage as a union of a man and a woman as recognized by the people of Tennessee in the State Constitution. Beavers said the only constitutionally sound resolution of the Obergefell v. Hodges opinion would be for the legislature to ignore and nullify it on the basis of the Tenth Amendment alone, which is the aim of the bill called the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act.

“Justice Antonin Scalia characterized the Obergefell ruling as ‘lacking even a thin veneer of law,” said Senator Beavers. “The U. S. Constitution specifically enumerates the powers of the federal government, including the judiciary. The Tenth Amendment precisely states that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively or to the people. As the regulation of marriage is not a federally enumerated power, no branch of the federal government has the constitutional authority to interfere with the institution.”

Beavers said that the actions by Governor Bill Haslam and Attorney General Herbert Slatery recognizing same sex marriages as legal in the days following the Obergefell decision plunged Tennesseans into a moral and constitutional quagmire. “This was the equivalent to an illegal decree,” added Beavers. “Because the Tennessee Code can only be enacted by the General Assembly, the governor’s and attorney general’s actions were, in and of themselves, lacking even a thin veneer of law as Justice Scalia said.”
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Washington County anti-gay marriage resolution falls short

The Washington County Commission fell one vote short of approving a resolution opposing same-sex marriage early today, reports the Johnson City Press.

Commissioner Forrest Boreing attributed the failure to opposition from the East Tennessee State University community.

“It was split by (East Tennessee State University),” Boreing said after the 7-hour meeting. “There are so many people from that school that showed up tonight. Most of the colleges do have more liberal attitudes, but that makes for good discussions.”

The 12-11 vote to approve the resolution failed because supporters needed 13 to capture a majority of the 25-seat County Commission. (It) came nearly 6.5 hours into the meeting, after a nearly hour-long discussion by commissioners on a measure to drop the resolution from the agenda and more than three hours of public comments.

Hundreds packed five courtrooms of the George Jaynes Justice Center and spilled out into upstairs and downstairs foyers, watching the 57 public speakers and the Commission’s debate on projection televisions specially wired for the occasion.
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Senate votes to let religious therapists turn away gays

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Therapists and counselors in Tennessee could decline to treat patients on the basis of “sincerely held religious beliefs” under a bill passed by the state Senate on Wednesday.

Opponents argued that counselors shouldn’t be allowed to deny treatment of people in crisis because they are gay, transgender or practice a different religion. But the chamber ultimately voted 27-5 in favor of the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin, who said it is aimed at being able to refer patients to “people who specialize in this.”

The bill is part of a wave of state legislative proposals to allow clergy, businesses or state officials to refuse certain services to certain people based on religious views, an after-effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage.

It’s not the first time state lawmakers have tried to take a stand on counseling issues. A proposal to make Colorado the fifth state to ban gay-conversion therapy failed last year, and a renewed effort this year faces strong opposition from Republicans.
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Advancing bill lets therapists decline to counsel gays

Tennessee therapists and marriage counselors with “sincerely held” religious beliefs could turn away gay patients without risk of legal consequences under legislation approved by the Senate Health Committee Wednesday on a 7-1 vote, reports the Times-Free Press.

The bill seeks to protect conservative therapists from 2014 changes in the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics. The changes direct that “counselors refrain from referring prospective and current clients based solely on the counselor’s personally held values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.”

While it doesn’t mention lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, the Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates for gays, said that’s the bill’s motivation.

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, said he brought the bill in response to concerns raised by a practitioner in his Middle Tennessee district.

The bill (SB1556) says that so long as the reluctant practitioners refer the client to another qualified professional, they will be protected from suspensions as well as any legal penalties.

The Tennessee Association for Marriage and Family Therapists opposes the legislation.

“This bill is in direct opposition to the ethical code of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy and potentially harmful to clients,” the group said in a statement. “Our mandate to do no harm to the consumer, we believe, would be violated.”

Several therapists objected to the legislation in testimony before the committee with one saying, “They can keep their belief system and still offer good counseling but not based on their religious beliefs.”

Johnson said, “I appreciate their thoughts and their input. I’ll just say that there are plenty who are in their profession across the state, many of whom have contacted you, who have a starkly different viewpoint of this bill.”

..Committee Chairman Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, noted that while the “prime directive is to serve people,” he believes “we have a duty to protect the beliefs of people and that’s where we are.”

“I don’t see the big deal here,” he said.

Another TN lawsuit filed against gay marriage

A second lawsuit has been filed in Tennessee challenging the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning bans on same-sex marriage, according to The Tennessean.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Bradley County. It says the U.S. Supreme Court cannot overturn a law and then decide what the law should be. That should be up to the state legislatures, the lawsuit says.

The case challenges the same-sex marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, when the justices ruled 5-4 that a definition of marriage as one man and one woman was unconstitutional and that same-sex couples could marry.

The case was filed by former lawmaker David Fowler, of the conservative Franklin-based Family Action Council of Tennessee. He filed a similar case in Williamson County on Jan. 21.

Note: Press release below.
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Nashville Council supports gay marriage ruling

While several county commissions around the state have passed resolutions opposing gay marriage, Nashville’s Metro Council has taken the opposition position, reports The Tennessean.

In a unanimous vote, the 40-member council late Tuesday approved a resolution asking the Davidson County state delegation to comply with last year’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage and to oppose any state legislation that is not compliant with it.

The resolution’s lead sponsors were council members Nancy VanReece of Madison and Brett Withers of East Nashville, the only two openly gay members on the council. The legislation had several co-sponsors.

“This is letting folks know on the Hill that we request that they simply confer with the Supreme Court ruling on this matter,” VanReece said.

Before the vote, Withers gave particularly personal remarks, asking his colleagues “that I be treated the same as you and that you reaffirm my right to marriage equality.”

…State legislation known as the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act that would have directed Tennessee to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex ruling quickly died in the legislature last month.

Nevertheless, gay rights advocates are still flagging a handful of bills they view as hostile to the recent court ruling.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Mae Beavers and state Rep. Mark Pody — who also were the sponsors of the Natural Marriage Defense Act — would purportedly require legislative approval of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Separate legislation aimed at transgender people would require students use restrooms or changing rooms that correspond with their birth certificates.

Another bill sponsored by Beavers would seek to define the terms husband, wife, male and female as used in all governmental offices.

A fourth bill, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, says that clergy, pastors, ministers or other religious-affiliated individuals would not be required to solemnize any marriage that would “violate a sincerely held religious belief.”