Tag Archives: marriage

AG’s advice to officials performing marriage ceremonies: Don’t discriminate

After the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling, at least one Tennessee county court clerk announced he will no longer perform marriage ceremonies, reports the Times-Free Press in an article reviewing ramifications of the ruling for those who perform marriages.

The article begins with the hypothetical situation of a gay couple asking Gov. Bill Haslam to perform the marriage ceremony. He’s one of many state and local officials authorized to perform weddings under state law — though the governor rarely does so, notably in presiding over wedding ceremonies for a son and daughter. But others do so routinely — especially many court clerks, who issue marriage licenses.

“Officials authorized to conduct ceremonies may do so at their discretion,” Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III said last week. “There’s no obligation under state law to solemnize a state marriage. Our statute says an official ‘may’ solemnize the rite of marriage.”

…But now, any public official who performs marriages must not discriminate between male-female and same-sex couples, Slatery said. Though he criticized the Supreme Court’s decision, Slatery told Tennessee officials on Friday to begin issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

“[In] light of the decision clearly establishing a constitutional right to marry, we think that the wise decision is to comply with the case and promptly issue the marriage licenses,” he advised county clerks.

“Our best advice in these instances is pretty simple: Do not discriminate. That’s the holding of the court today.”

…*T)he governor or other public officials who perform occasional ceremonies for relatives and close friends probably wouldn’t be affected, said Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates on behalf of gay, lesbian and transgender people.

“My guess is that the governor would probably get a lot more leeway than a clerk would,” Sanders said. “It’s not that that’s written in the code anywhere. It’s just since the governor isn’t doing too many to begin with, he’d probably stick to the natural proposition that he’s doing it for close family and friends, and on that basis it’s not discriminary on the basis of they are or aren’t a same-sex couple.”

But, Sanders said, “Ask him how many of his friends are gay.”

…Wayne County Clerk Stan Horton on Friday signed and posted a “to whom it may concern” notice that quickly made the rounds on social media: “As of June 26, 2015 there will be no marriage ceremonies performed in the Wayne County Clerk’s office by Clerk Stan Horton neither will marriages be performed by deputy clerk’s [sic], this decision not only reflects inside the office but also outside the boundaries of the office.”

..Sanders said the Equality Project has heard that one or two other clerks may stop performing marriages.

…Tennessee lawmakers had passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was intended to ensure business’ religious freedom rights regarding same-sex ceremonies.

“Well, I think that remains to be seen,” Slatery told reporters. “Obviously, any exercise by the state or state officials may be subject to some scrutiny if they were doing that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

There are arguments whether ministers, rabbis and imams would have to perform same-sex ceremonies. Sanders said they wouldn’t, but others, including Slatery, said there could be issues down the road.

Note: Related post on two Republican legislators proposing a “Pastor Protection Act” is HERE.

Chattanooga TV station rejects ad supporting gay marriage

From the News-Sentinel:
As the national same-sex marriage debate turns its focus on Tennessee, a Chattanooga television station has been drawn into the conversation by rejecting a commercial from Freedom To Marry, an organization that promotes marriage equality.

FTM announced Friday that the commercial would air in Tennessee this coming week, but Chattanooga’s WRCB, an NBC affiliate, turned down the commercial, indicating it wanted to be neutral on the issue.

In an interview with BuzzFeed, WRCB president and general manager Tom Tolar said his station had no position on ads on same-sex marriage until this week when they reviewed the FTM commercial. “It’s just a very controversial and personal issue, and we just choose to not air a commercial on either side of that debate,” Tolar said. He said there were “not really” any other issue-based commercials that stir such emotions.

Marc Solomon of FTM said this is the first commercial to be rejected by anyone of the more than two dozen commercials his campaign has produced. He added that stations in Memphis and Nashville will be airing the commercial.

Another spokesperson for FTM told the News Sentinel that there are no plans to run the commercial in Knoxville.

Further, from the Times-Free Press:

An examination of online Federal Communication Commission filings shows Chattanooga station affiliates for ABC, CBS and Fox are all airing the ads. The spots are on Nashville and Memphis stations too, including NBC affiliates.

Note: The Freedom to Marry news release on the ad, dated May 29, is below.
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Senators decide against being marrying men (and women)

While members of a House committee have voted to grant current and former state legislators legal authority to perform marriage ceremonies, a majority of Senate Judiciary Committee members balked at the idea Wednesday.

The move came on a bill by Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, and Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, that as filed granted former county clerks authority to perform marriages.

In the House Civil Justice Committee, the measure was extended by amendment to provide marrying authority to current and former members of the General Assembly.
When the matter came up in Senate Judiciary, Yager professed himself neutral on the issue of legislator wedding.

Current law allows current and former speakers of the state House and Senate to perform marriages along with an array of other state and local officials – but not rank-and-file legislators.

“If former county commissioners can (perform marriages), why not legislators?” asked Sen. Douglas Overbey, R-Maryville, at one point.

But when the vote came on the amendment, only three voted yes and four voted no. The bill was then approved by the committee 9-0 in its original form, applying only to former county clerks.

Same-sex Couples Seek TN Marriage License With Lawsuit in Mind

Same-sex couples in at least three Tennessee counties tried to get marriage licenses Wednesday, striding into county clerks’ offices, their faces lit up by camera flashes as they made state history, reports The Tennessean.

But because same-sex marriage is illegal in Tennessee, they left empty-handed.

Will Peyton and Jef Laudieri of Nashville said they weren’t surprised by the rejection, just at how much it hurt…. They hope to be part of a lawsuit that could force Tennessee to allow their future marriage, similar to suits recently filed in Pennsylvania and Illinois.

Before the Davidson County Clerk’s office opened Wednesday, Peyton and Laudieri met up with Nina Pacent and Renee Kasman, a Bellevue couple legally married in June in White Plains, N.Y.

Within minutes, the group was in front of Tara Marks’ desk inside the county clerk’s office, being read to in a trembling voice from a manual prepared for this occasion.
“Tennessee statute prohibits marriage between two people of the same sex,” Marks read.

… Abby Rubenfeld, a Nashville attorney who wed under California’s same-sex marriage law, said she anticipates finding success in the courts.

“I think we have pretty decent courts, the law is really clear, the Supreme Court decision was very clear. Even (Justice) Scalia, in his dissent, said he felt it meant the end of all the state DOMAs.”

She said Tennessee couples find themselves in a variety of situations that must be addressed: those who legally married elsewhere who make their homes in Tennessee, those who married elsewhere but now need to divorce and can’t, and those who have never been married anywhere.

And from the Commercial Appeal:
Two same sex couples applied for marriage licenses at the Shelby County Clerk’s office Wednesday morning but were, as they anticipated, denied in accordance with the state’s constitutional ban on same sex marriage.

Organized by the Tennessee Equality Project, it was an act intended partly to raise awareness about the inability of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples to marry in their home state.

…But it was also a first step in possibly bringing legal action against the state.

“The first step is to be turned down,” said Aaron Thompson, who tried to apply for a marriage license with Chris Snow.

Young, Old Republicans Split on Same-Sex Marriage?

Excerpt from a Bloomberg article on the culture clash between young and older Republicans over same sex marriage:
Even in Tennessee, which banned gay marriage by constitutional amendment in 2006 with the support of 81 percent of voters, there are signs of change. Vanderbilt University released a poll May 12 showing 49 percent of those surveyed favored either same-sex marriage or civil unions. Among those under 30, support ran at 69 percent.
“The whole country is moving toward gay rights broadly,” said John Geer, chairman of political science at Vanderbilt, who oversees the poll. “Tennessee is part of that, not in the same place as Massachusetts but moving in the same direction.”
And young adults are driving the change. John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, said surveys of millenials — people born between 1980 and 2000 — showed they either favored recognizing same-sex marriage or said they didn’t care by a ratio of 3-to-1.
“This is saying that 26 percent of young Americans don’t believe it should be recognized,” Della Volpe said. “This demographic group that we are polling is the largest generation in the history of America, larger than Baby Boomers, most are of age and they will continue to become a more important force in elections.”
…(State Sen. Stacey) Campfield, in an e-mail response to questions, said he questioned the premise that attitudes on the issue had shifted.
”When put on the actual ballot, homosexual marriage has seldom passed on its own and I think has only passed by ballot initiative in small-population, liberal states,” he wrote. ”As for youth polling, young people often say and do things completely different when they actually grow up, get a real job, begin paying taxes and start trying to raise a family.”
”If we left all decisions up to youth polling,” he wrote, ”’beer pong’ would be an Olympic sport.”

MTSU Poll: Tennesseans Oppose Same-Sex Marriage and ‘Don’t Say Gay’

News release from Middle Tennessee State University:
Tennessee than nearly anywhere else in the country, but the state’s proposed “don’t say gay” law has little support, the latest MTSU Poll indicates.
“Though Tennesseans may be fairly characterized as extremely opposed to same-sex marriage at this point, whether and how homosexuality should be addressed in public schools is a very different matter,” said Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.
A solid 62 percent majority of Tennesseans oppose “allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally,” while 28 percent are in favor, 6 percent don’t know, and the rest decline to answer, according to the poll.
This nearly two-thirds opposition in Tennessee to legalizing gay marriage is significantly higher than the 43 percent opposition registered nationally in surveys throughout 2012 by the Pew Center for the People and the Press1. It is higher even than the 56 percent opposition Pew found to be typical in 2012 of the South Central region that includes Tennessee as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.

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DesJarlais: No Pregnancy, No Abortion, No Broken Marriage Vows

Congressman Scott DesJarlais tells Andy Sher that there was no pregnancy and no abortion from his sexual relationship discussed in a 12-year-old transcript that has received wide attention this week. He also suggests the relationship did not break his marriage vows because he and his wife at the time had agreed they could “see other people” during protracted divorce proceedings.
“There was no pregnancy and there was no abortion,” the 4th Congressional District representative told the Times Free Press today.
DesJarlais, a freshman lawmaker who opposes abortion, is battling a controversy over a transcript of a recorded conversation in which he presses the unnamed woman to get an abortion.
“I was attempting to use strong language to get her to tell me the truth,” said DesJarlais, who added that he didn’t record the conversation and had no idea it was being recorded.
The congressman has come under attack from Democratic opponent Eric Stewart over the transcript, first reported by the Huffington Post earlier this week.
According to the transcript, DesJarlais questioned the woman on why she hadn’t taken steps toward terminating the pregnancy.
“You told me you’d have an abortion, and now we’re getting too far along without one,” DesJarlais is quoted as saying. “If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let’s do it.”
…DesJarlais said he pushed the issue because as a doctor he knew the woman should have been showing signs of pregnancy because “it was approximately four months from the time that I had been with her.”
Moreover, DesJarlais said, a mutual friend strongly cast doubts about the truthfulness of the claims made by the woman, whom he had once treated for an ankle problem.
“Again, there was a lot of poor judgment involved, probably on the part of both parties,” DesJarlais said.
At the time physician was married. But he said he and his then-wife, Susan, were in the midst of divorce proceedings.
“The divorce was [filed] in December of ’98,” he said. “After a period of separation, my wife and I agreed … [and] signed an agreement we could see other people.”
Both did under the agreement, he noted and rejected characterizations of the news characterizations of the woman as his “mistress” and his seeing her an “affair.”

UT Rejects Same-Sex Benefits; Faculty Protests

Members of the University of Tennessee Faculty Senate called a letter Monday from the campus chancellors regarding benefits for same-sex partners “appalling,” reports the News Sentinel.
The letter sent by Chancellors Larry Arrington and Jimmy Cheek, followed a request for a response by the faculty after it drafted a resolution in April supporting education, leave and health benefits for same-sex couples that mirror what is offered to married couples.
…”We hope you understand that in our positions as leaders of an agency of the State of Tennessee, it is incumbent upon us to act consistently with the public policy of our state,” the letter reads.
The chancellors wrote that the three faculty proposals — offering education credits, leave to care for partners and their children, and family health care coverage that is consistent with what the university provides married spouses — are “inconsistent with the public policy of our state outlined in constitutional and statutory provisions.”
Faculty senators, however, expressed frustration that the three-paragraph letter left no room for dialogue, did not explain which laws such benefits would violate and did not offer alternative solutions.
“This seemed to be a three-sentence response, and it’s a very sensitive issue, and I’d like to know more in-depth some background on this,” Wanda Costen, an associate professor in the Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management, said during the meeting. “This is not one I’m willing to let go lightly.”
Tina Shepardson, an associate professor of religious studies, agreed that the letter was too brief. The resolution passed in April specifically asked for a plan for progress and a response to a list of 33 benefit items, she pointed out.

A Gay Marriage Litmus Test for TN Democrats?

Mark Clayton is a nightmare for the Tennessee Democratic Party in large part because of what the controversy surrounding his U.S. Senate candidacy portends for Democratic office-seekers in future elections, says a George Korda column.
With the furor around Clayton, Tennesseans are principally hearing and reading that he’s unacceptable to Democrats because he’s “anti-gay.” The fundamental reasons, once again, are said to be opposition to gay marriage, supporting Campfield’s schools legislation, and being a member of Public Advocate. There are other reasons why some Democratic leaders don’t like him, but those aren’t getting substantial airtime or ink.
(Public Advocate’s “hate group” label comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center. It would be useful for Tennesseans interested in the subject to visit the SPLC and Public Advocate websites, read them, and decide for themselves whether they agree or disagree with the “anti-gay hate group” label) (Note: A Public Letter newsletter, distributed at the state Legislature and including an article on Campfield’s bill is HERE.).
In 2006 a Tennessee ballot measure affirming marriage between a man and a woman passed with 81 percent of the vote. Clearly, Democrats either completely sat it out or voted for it. The margin is a pretty clear indication of Tennessee voters’ sentiments on this issue. They’re not alone. Homosexual marriage referendums have failed in every state in which voters have had a chance to decide the issue.
Combine that voter sentiment with the Democrats’ Tennessee unsuccessful election experience of the past 18 years and the party’s future problem is obvious: will Democratic candidates be required to affirm support of gay marriage, or opposition to Campfield’s bill, to be considered a Democrat worthy of being on the ballot? If not that, will there be other issues for which Democrats must proclaim ideological purity? Global warming? Obamacare? You name it.
If the answer among Democratic Party activists is yes, or even remotely close to yes, history and evidence suggest continuing misery for Tennessee Democrats seeking elected office. A party already reeling will find itself eating its own, the sort of thing abortion supporters often hope will happen to anti-abortion conservatives.
Smart Tennessee Democrats will do everything possible to avoid such an issue-related litmus test for office seekers and get their colleagues to quiet down. It’s not as if Clayton has a great chance to win anyway.

Davidson County Clerk Resigns; DA Says He Won’t Be Prosecuted

Embattled Davidson County Clerk John Arriola plans to resign at the end of this week in what appears to be a deal with local prosecutors, according to The Tennessean.
Arriola has been under investigation for nearly a year over charging couples a $40 fee and pocketing the money when his office performed weddings.
He gathered about 60 staff members for a brief meeting at 7:30 a.m. today.
“He didn’t go into an explanation other than it was just time to step down,” said Jonathan Saad, director of external operations for the clerk’s office.
District Attorney General Torry Johnson said in a news release that his investigation of Arriola, conducted jointly with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation since July, has concluded with the clerk’s submission of a resignation letter, which Johnson’s office delivered to Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors today. Arriola wrote without elaboration that as “a duly elected official,” he would resign at the close of business Friday.
“With his resignation from office, there will be no prosecution of alleged or purported state criminal law violations as a result of what the audits found,” the release said.
Johnson also said, however, that Arriola’s actions “weren’t necessarily criminal in nature.”