Tag Archives: same-sex

6th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds gay marriage ban in TN, 3 other states

By Dan Sewell, Associated Press
CINCINNATI — A month after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on gay marriage, the issue is headed its way again.

A federal appeals court Thursday halted a run of rulings supporting same-sex marriage by the U.S. courts that are the last line for appeals just below the Supreme Court. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel instead upheld laws against the practice in four states — Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Attorneys for gay plaintiffs say they will ask the Supreme Court to hear their arguments, and the split created Thursday among the federal appeals courts makes it more likely they will agree to this time.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had explained in a September speech in Minnesota that the lack of a split in the appeals courts made Supreme Court review of the issue unnecessary. But she said “there will be some urgency” if the 6th Circuit allowed same-sex marriage bans to stand.

One month ago Thursday, the Supreme Court turned away appeals from five states seeking to uphold their same-sex marriage bans. That action had the effect of further expanding gay marriage.

The 6th Circuit panel, in its 2-1 ruling, said changing the definition of marriage should be done through the political process, not by judges and lawyers.

“Surely the people should receive some deference in deciding when the time is ripe to move from one picture of marriage to another,” wrote Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton, writing for himself and a fellow George W. Bush appointee.

The dissenting judge suggested that Sutton and Judge Deborah Cook might have wanted to push the issue on to the high court.
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Appeals court to hear TN same-sex marriage case in conjunction with other states

CINCINNATI (AP) — A federal appeals court will hear arguments in gay marriage fights in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee in a single session, setting the stage for historic rulings in each state.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati, scheduled arguments in five cases from the four states for Aug. 6. Though the cases are unique, each deals with whether statewide gay marriage bans violate the Constitution.

“I think the way the court’s approaching it is significant,” said Al Gerhardstein, a Cincinnati civil rights attorney who represents plaintiffs in two Ohio cases that will go before the appeals court. “They see the need to do some basic rulings on core principles cutting across all these state lines. It’s very exciting.”

Louisville attorney Dawn Elliott, who represents eight plaintiffs in the Kentucky case, said she and her co-counsel plan to make their arguments personal, focusing on the people affected by the ruling.
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Chattanooga voters to decide same-sex benefits for city employees

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — The Chattanooga City Council has declined to reconsider a new law that allows health benefits for domestic partners of city employees.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/1bR3CXJ) reports that because the council did not take up the issue on Tuesday, it will go to referendum in August during the general election.

In November, Chattanooga became the third city in Tennessee to vote to expand benefits to same-sex couples, after Collegedale and Knoxville.

Opponents of the law organized a petition drive immediately after the vote and gathered enough signatures to force the City Council either to revisit its vote or allow the issue to go to referendum. The council chose the latter option.

The issue has been hotly debated since the proposal was initially put forward last August.

“I think they did not do what the people wanted,” said Charlie Wysong, an activist who helped lead the campaign to repeal the ordinance. “But the people will decide this (ordinance) is something they don’t want.”

Councilman Chris Anderson, who pushed for the ordinance, said he isn’t worried about a referendum vote.

“I’m confident the people of Chattanooga can make the right decision,” he said. “(One) they won’t be ashamed of 10 years from now.”

Chattanooga to vote on same-sex benefits; Election commission lawyer resigns

The Hamilton County Election Commission has formally certified that a petition drive got enough signatures to trigger a vote on repealing a Chattanooga city ordinance that provides employee benefits to same-sex couples, reports the Chattanooga TFP.

And there are two related developments: The City Council has scheduled a mid-January meeting to reconsider the ordinance and Chris Clem, a former Republican state legislator, announced his resignation as the Election Commission attorney amid contentions that he helped leaders of the petition drive.

Monday’s action means that if the council keeps the ordinance in place, voters in the city will decide whether to approve or reject the domestic partners benefits expansion when they go to the polls in August 2014. Ballot questions for the August election must be determined by April 10, election officials said.

…Election Commission Chairman Mike Walden accused officials of becoming political (and)… openly chided Tea Party leader Mark West for going to the state for advice. West did so after talking with Clem to avoid a legal battle like what took place three years ago when West was involved with efforts to recall former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.

Part of the failure of the Littlefield recall was that the local elections administrator told petitioners they didn’t need to date the signatures, so hundreds of signatures were later thrown out. West said this go-around he wanted to be absolutely sure he avoided any loopholes in the law and city charter.

Clem said he didn’t see anything wrong with giving West advice.

After last month’s meeting, Walden and Clem went behind closed doors and were heard arguing in raised voices.

Clem admitted there was a disagreement between him and Walden. But he said the argument didn’t affect his decision to resign. Instead he said he wanted to get more involved in local political races. He said he has no intention to run but he would like to support multiple friends running for a Hamilton County office.

Yet Election Commissioner Jerry Summers said Clem was asked to resign or be fired, a move that Summers said he opposed.

“I don’t think it’s voluntary based on the last meeting,” Summers told the commissioners when Clem made the announcement. “I thought you were under pressure to resign.”

FACT seeks role in TN same-sex marriage lawsuit

The Family Action Council of Tennessee, a conservative Christian group led by former state Sen. David Fowler, wants to join the state in arguing against a lawsuit that seeks to require Tennessee recognition of same-sex marriages taking place in other states — New Jersey, for example.

News release from Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT):
FACT has partnered with the Alliance Defending Freedom to ask the court for permission to submit a “friend of the court” brief in the federal lawsuit filed in Tennessee by same-sex couples seeking to strike down portions of our state’s marriage laws — the parts that recognize out of state marriages only if they are between a man and a woman. 

The brief — called an Amicus Brief — emphasizes the issue of state’s rights, specifically the rights of each state to determine its own policies regarding marriage and family. (Note: PDF of the brief, HERE.)

In October, four same-sex couples filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Nashville asking the court for force Tennessee to recognize their marriages that were performed in other states. The filing immediately moved Tennessee to the frontline of the national same-sex marriage battle.  The brief sought to be filed by FACT and the Alliance Defending Freedom augments another brief filed by the state Attorney General’s office, which is defending the state in the lawsuit.

The ADF is a national organization that provides legal resources to individuals and organizations in challenges to family and religious liberty issues.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit is referenced in a New Jersey newspaper story about two same-sex couples from Cookeville, Tenn., visiting the Garden State to get married

The couples belong to the United Church of Cookeville, Tenn., a congregation that, like the church in Warren, openly welcomes gay and lesbian congregants.

Trinity United Church flies the gay and lesbian rainbow pride flag outside its white-steepled building and adopted an “Open and Affirming Statement” in 2009, which states that “God’s love, Christ’s church, and the Spirit’s power are for the people of every color, age, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, circumstance and ability.”

…Rodriguez, 68, a former Catholic who joined the Cookeville church because of its “acceptance,” said he and DeVolder, 66, had not had a hard time being openly gay in Tennessee.

“I’ve had it easy to the point there was no bullying in my school,” DeVolder said.
Their community and church’s acceptance doesn’t extend to the rest of the state, which passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 prohibiting same-sex marriage. Tennessee law is being challenged in federal court by a gay couple who married in California in 2008 and three gay couples who married in New York in 2011 and who all live in Tennessee.

Collegedale, TN, Grants Health Care Benefits to Same-Sex Couples

COLLEGEDALE, Tenn. (AP) — An East Tennessee city of fewer than 7,000 residents is poised to become the first municipality in the state to grant health care benefits to domestic partners.
According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/12shZN7 ), Collegedale City Commission members last week passed on first reading a plan to extend the same benefits married city workers receive to heterosexual and same-sex partners of city employees.
A consultant with the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service said that, if the commissioners approve the proposal again, Collegedale would become the first among Tennessee’s 346 cities to cover domestic partnerships.
Consultant Bonnie Jones said she is surprised one of the larger cities might not be the first.
“Collegedale is kind of on the cutting edge,” Jones said.

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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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UT Faculty Prods Chancellor on Same-sex Benefits

University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek defended himself Monday as faculty members asked pointed questions about why the administration refused to work toward providing health care and other benefits to unmarried same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
More from the News Sentinel:
Members of the Faculty Senate pressed Cheek on why he wouldn’t lobby the Legislature to change current laws, why the school couldn’t offer financial compensation for faculty whose partners aren’t eligible for health care, and why the school couldn’t offer other benefits, such as tuition compensation, for employees’ partners.
“We always have to weigh, anytime we bring something to the General Assembly and board of trustees, the probability of it being supported and whether or not it will compromise other things we’re trying to get done,” Cheek said. “We just don’t see a way forward.”
He declined to outline how his former institution, the University of Florida, found a way to work around a conservative state government to offer domestic partner benefit packages. He also refused to say why UT couldn’t offer tuition reimbursements.
Though he didn’t want to respond to these questions publicly, Cheek did offer to sit down individually with those who wanted more detailed explanations
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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.