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Gay rights and marriage equality news from Tennessee

 

Tennessee Marriage Equality Opposition Drops 9 Points

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

titleMarriage equality opposition is still above 50%, but it has fallen drastically over the last year.

The Tennessean reports:

Fifty-five percent of Tennesseans are against same-sex marriages, the poll found. That number is down from the 64-percent opposition reported in a 2014 poll from MTSU. Religious identity also seemed to play a key role in people’s attitudes on this topic. Seventy percent of evangelicals were against same-sex marriage, while only 29 percent of non-evangelicals were in opposition.

How long do you think it will be until the last state sees support rise over 50%?

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Marriage Equality Round-Up – US Supreme Court Edition

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

US Supreme Court Color

There’s a lot going on around the US Supreme Court’s decision to take five marriage equality cases from the Sixth Circuit. Here’s a wrap-up of the current news and analysis

USA: The hearing will be held in April. full story

USA: The ACLU looks at where we’re at and how we got here. full story

USA: Time Magazine looks at the court’s options in the case. full story

USA: Lambda Legal asks “what happens if we lose?” full story

USA: New Now Next profiles the couples in the four cases. full story

USA: Just like the last time, it probably all comes down to Justice Kennedy. full story

USA: Not so fast, says the New Republic – Chief Justice Roberts may have a role to play too. full story

USA: Time also looks at the Supreme Court’s own history with the issue. full story

USA: Garrett Epps at The Atlantic looks at the odds. full story

USA: Time recaps what five of the Justices have written or said about marriage equality in the past. full story

USA: Prop 8 attorney David Boies thinks marriage equality will win out at the Court. full story

USA: Attorney General Eric Holder says he will file a brief with the Court in favor of marriage equality. full story

USA: While announcing the Court’s decision to take the cases, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith slammed the “continuing discrimination” by states that are still fighting same-sex marriage full story

USA: Steve Sanders at ScotusBlog looks at the issue of “animus” in the state bans and the upcoming decisions. full story

USA, Michigan: The plaintiffs here say they are in awe that the Court has decided to take up their case. full story

USA, Texas: Neel Lane, attorney the plaintiffs in the Texas marriage equality case, is calling on the three judge panel to issue a ruling even though the Supremes have now taken four marriage equality cases. full story

USA, Alaska: Attorney General Craig Richards said he would suspend his hopeless appeal of the decision striking down the state’s ban while the Supremes consider the issue. full story

US Supreme Court Takes Four Marriage Equality Cases

Friday, January 16th, 2015

US Supreme Court Color

This is huge – the Supremes just took all four cases from the Sixth Circuit:

The Supreme Court has just granted certiorari — i.e. agreed to hear oral arguments — in the Sixth Circuit marriage cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. They were consolidated. This means that the question of whether or not the United States Constitution protects the freedom of same-sex couples to marry is likely to be decided by the end of June. The Supreme Court order, issued this afternoon at approximately 3:30 PM, contains the following instructions: The cases are consolidated and the petitions for writs of certiorari are granted.

We should know by June if the whole US has marriage equality!

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Sixth Circuit Upholds Marriage Equality Bans

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Sixth Circuit

My friends, we have a circuit court split – the Sixth Circuit became the first in the nation to uphold a ban on same sex marriage.

The Washington Blade reports:

A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that bans on same-sex marriage in each of the four states within its jurisdiction are constitutional, once again opening up the possibility for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue. In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that prohibitions on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee pass constitutional muster.

The 42-page majority opinion was written by U.S. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton, an appointee of George W. Bush who was seen as the panel’s swing vote on marriage. Sutton bases much of the ruling on his determination that bans on same-sex marriage pass rational basis review and, much like he suggested during his questioning in oral arguments, that the democratic process should decide the marriage issue, not the courts.

“When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton said. “Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”

Justice Ginsberg said recently that there was no reason for the Court to step in until and unless there was a split among the circuit courts. Will the Court now take another marriage equality case?

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On That Tennessee Marriage Equality Ruling

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Circuit Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr.It finally happened. After a string of court victories for marriage equality, Circuit Court Judge Russell E. Simmons Jr., upheld Tennessee’s amendment against same-sex marriage, becoming the first jurist to uphold such a ban since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act last year.

Having not won a case in almost 14 months, opponents of same-sex marriage were understandably excited. Less expected was the fatalism of allegedly unbiased journalists and even some supporters of marriage equality. It seemed that the end of the streak was the end of all hope. People who were beginning to think there might not be a federal circuit court split were again certain that marriage equality was on its way back to the Supreme Court. A run of losses might be in the making.

Fortunately, that’s not how streaks work, with the possible exception of Lou Gehrig, who never played after the end of his 2,130 consecutive game streak. Most “endings” are a blip on the radar before the resumption of excellence. Cal Ripken Jr., had one of his best statistical seasons the year after he ended his Gehrig-besting streak at 2,632 games. Despite ending his hitting streak at 56 games, Joe DiMaggio was an All Star and the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1941, and went on to another MVP trophy, seven more All Star games, and the Hall of Fame. Muhammad Ali won 31 straight fights before losing to Joe Frazier in 1971, but went on to reclaim the heavyweight title.

Authored By Joel Trambley – See the Full Story at LGBT Weekly

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Tennessee Marriage Equality Ruling Breaks Streak

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Circuit Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr.A judge in a Tennessee marriage equality case became the first in the US to rule against same sex marriage since the US Supreme Court ruled on DOMA and Prop 8 last year.

Dot429 reports:

Circuit Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr. of Roane County said in his decision, “neither the Federal Government nor another state should be allowed to dictate to Tennessee what has traditionally been a state’s responsibility.” The case was brought by two gay men, both Tennessee residents, who had married in Iowa four years previously and are now seeking a divorce. Granting it would require recognizing them as married, something Simmons refused to do on the grounds that under Tennessee law, “if another state allows persons to marry who are prohibited from marriage in Tennessee, then that marriage is void and unenforceable in Tennessee.”

Though Simmons’ ruling can only apply to “cases involving a divorce when the marriage itself is not recognized,” according to SCOTUSblog, “he ruled in sweeping terms.” His decision relied in part on a Supreme Court summary decision from 1972, which he said the court had never overruled. When it was argued that said precedent has been undercut by more recent cases, especially in regards to LGBT rights, Simmons responded that the issue needs to be addressed by a higher court.

That sounds pretty desperate to me – reaching back 42 years to find a precedent to support his ruling.

It should also be noted that the city of Chattanooga voted overwhelmingly to take rights away from its LGBT citizens this last week. Tennessee is clearly vying for the title of “most homophobic state.”

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Tennessee Marriage Equality Setback: Judge Upholds Ban in Divorce Case

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Tennessee mapA judge in the case of two men seeking a divorce has upheld the Tennessee marriage equality ban.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

A Tennessee judge has ruled that two men who married in Iowa and later moved to Tennessee cannot be granted a divorce because the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. In his ruling, Roane County, Tenn., Circuit Court Judge Russell E. Simmons Jr., upheld Tennessee’s ban on same-sex marriage and said state laws now in effect don’t violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process rights, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel. “The battle is not between whether or not marriage is a fundamental right but what unions are included in the definition of marriage,” according to Simmons’ ruling.

The judge basically hid behind a state’s rights defense. It’s sad that a couple can be denied a divorce because that would offend someone’s sensibilities about marriage equality.

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Will Sixth Circuit Be First to Rule Against Marriage Equality?

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Sixth Circuit

Andrew Sullivan collects some of the views from pundits who see a possible end to the winning streak for marriage equality in the courts.

The Dish reports:

At one rather awkward point, Sutton launched into a strange monologue about the gay rights movement’s tactics, one that seemed barely tethered to the merits of the case at hand:

I would’ve thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process. Forcing one’s neighbors, co-employees, friends, to recognize that these marriages, the status deserves the same respect as the status in a heterosexual couple. … If the goal is to change hearts and minds … isn’t it worth the expense? Don’t you think you’re more likely to change hearts and minds through the democratic process than you are through a decision by five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court?

These words should be very unnerving for supporters of same-sex marriage. Don’t come to us with your demands for equal protection and fundamental rights, Sutton implied; take your case to the voters instead. Being a legal stranger to your spouse and child isn’t so bad, he suggests, that you need to turn to the federal courts for relief.

How soon will the court rule? And if it does rule against marriage equality, will this help to create incentive for the US Supreme Court to step in?

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Chattanooga, Tennessee Rescinds Domestic Partnership Ordinance 63%-37%

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Tennessee mapIn a lopsided vote, city voters overturned the domestic partnership ordinance recently passed by the city council.

Think Progress reports:

Voters in Chattanooga, Tennessee overwhelmingly decided Thursday to undo a recently passed law that extended health benefits to the domestic partners of city employees. With a vote of 13,685-8,184, the town overturned the law originally passed 5-4 by the City Council. The Human Rights Campaign decried the vote as “hurtful and disappointing,” but Mayor Andy Berk was still hopeful. He told WTVC, “I have no doubt Chattanoogans value fairness and equality, and I am proud of the volunteers who spent nights and weekends to ensure our employees are treated equally.” He assured city employees, “Your work is valued and you are important to the future of our community.”

Once again, the lie that it’s only about the word “marriage” is exposed. It’s really about denying any and all rights to LGBT individuals, couples and families.

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Sixth Circuit Hears Marriage Equality Cases From Four States

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Sixth Circuit

The Sixth Circuit heard marriage equality cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee yesterday.

Freedom to Marry has a nice collection of quotes from the decisions that got the cases here:

“Once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot take your marriage away, because the right t remain married is properly recognized as a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.” –Obergefell v. Wymyslo ruling, Ohio

“No one has offered any evidence that recognizing same-sex marriages will harm opposite-sex marriages, individually or collectively. One’s belief to the contrary, however sincerely held, cannot alone justify denying a selected group their constitutional rights.” Bourke v. Beshear ruling, Kentucky

“In attempting to define this case as a challenge to “the will of the people,” state defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people. Today’s decision affirms the enduring principle that regardless of who finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail.” Deboer v Snyder ruling, Michigan

Joe.My.God also has a couple videos from the marriage equality rally before the hearing:

During the hearing, at least one of the judges, Martha Daughtrey, openly mocked Mark Regnerus, author of a discredited study on gay parenting (from a reporter’s tweet and notes):

“Even the Texas professor’s University doesn’t believe anything this man says… What harm comes? It doesn’t look like the sky has fallen in other cases.”

Judge Daughtrey also pressed a Michigan Attorney on the comparison between bans on same sex marriage and interracial marriage.

She also pressed him to differentiate between banning same-sex marriage and prohibiting interracial marriage, which was prevalent in many states until a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia. “That was a vote by the people of many states against interracial marriage,” she said. Lindstrom countered that race doesn’t play a role in the fundamental definition of marriage.

The two GOP appointees on the panel appeared to give some weight to the “will of the people” argument, while the Democratic appointee appeared to clearly favor marriage equality:

Republican appointee Judge Jeffrey Sutton repeatedly questioned whether voters rather than courts should decide whether gay marriage is legal. Sutton is respected within legal circles and his views could help sway the five conservative members of the Supreme Court. The panel’s sole Democratic appointee, Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, was the only member who clearly signaled support for plaintiffs seeking recognition for gay marriage. The third judge, Deborah Cook, gave fewer indications of where she stood. But like Sutton, Cook indicated that deference should be given to voters.

The New York Times has their own take on the three judges:

Judge Sutton did suggest that the arguments offered against marriage equality were weak, saying that marriage bans would be hard to defend if subjected to the intense “heightened scrutiny” that courts apply when fundamental civil rights are at stake. But he also wondered whether legal precedents in the Sixth Circuit and the Supreme Court should prevent the panel from declaring same-sex marriage to be a fundamental right deserving court intervention.

In often caustic questions, Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, the Clinton appointee, left no doubt where she stood. When the lawyer for Michigan said that the courts should not tamper with an institution as deeply rooted as marriage, she replied that bans on interracial marriage were also deeply rooted before the Supreme Court found them unconstitutional. “That was the law across a huge swath of the Southern states,” she said.

The third judge, Deborah L. Cook, another Bush appointee, spoke little during the unusual proceeding in which one state’s case followed another without any breaks. But she seemed to favor the right of states to ban same-sex marriage.

The audio files for the hearings have now been posted.

So now we wait for a few months for the rulings. Yes, two judges were GOP appointees, but there are a number of GOP-appointed judges among those who have ruled for marriage equality over the last year.

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