In a letter to Tennessee county clerks, state Rep. Rick Womick is urging they refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, rejecting advice Gov. Bill Haslam and state Attorney General Herbert Slatery to the contrary.
“It has come to my attention that most, if not all of you, have been contacted by AG Herbert Slatery and the Haslam Administration, and have been told to uphold the SCOTUS opinion or face a discrimination lawsuit,” wrote Womick, R-Rockvale.
“Such intimidation from this administration is unconstitutional and should not be tolerated. Each of you are publicly elected servants of your county. You swore an oath to uphold the Tennessee State Constitution and to enforce the Tennessee Code Annotated. You did not take an oath to uphold an ‘opinion’ from from five justices of the SCOTUS.
“Therefore, I am asking each of you to ignore the recent SCOTUS opinion redefining marriage, uphold our State Constitution, and issue marriage certificates to one man and one woman only,” the letter says.
In a brief telephone interview, Womick said he has had “lot of positive feedback, especially from citizens and constituents” and “a few” clerks – though none have yet told him flatly that they will honor his request.
In response to a request for comment on Womick’s letter, Harlow Sumerford, spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, sent this email:
“Our legal advice remains unchanged and that is to comply with the Supreme Court ruling.”
(Note: A statement from the Tennessee ACLU is below. Spokespersons for Haslam had not responded to emailed requests for comment at the time of this posting, which will be updated should they do so.)
Womick previously has called for impeachment of Haslam for his acceptance of the Supreme Court ruling, though without any positive feedback from fellow legislators in that case.
The letter to clerks says that Haslam “has absolute authority and power” under the state and federal constitutions to “ignore” the Supreme Court opinion but has “decided to shirk his duty to the citizens of the state of Tennessee.”
“I have made my choice. I will stand for our Republic and I will rebel and fight against all who support this oligarchy of judicial tyranny! I hope you will do the same in each of your counties,” Womick wrote.
Full text of the letter to clerks is available by clicking on this link: Letter from State Rep 34th Dist
Here is a statement from Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Tennessee:
“Representative Womick’s letter is an irresponsible abuse of his position. The U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Obergefell made it clear that marriage is a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution. Governor Haslam and Attorney General Slatery were right to uphold the law by ensuring that government offices in Tennessee implemented the Supreme Court’s ruling. Representative Womick’s grandstanding encourages county clerks to violate the Constitution, potentially exposing them to litigation should they heed his misleading opinions.”