Tennessee lawmakers want to overturn Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision

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Two Tennessee lawmakers—who apparently lack an understanding of basic civics—introduced a bill Thursday that purportedly strikes down the Supreme Court's ruling for a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

The so-called "Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act" attempts to prevent the state from enforcing the Court's ruling, The Tennessean reported.

"Natural marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman as recognized by the people of Tennessee remains the law in Tennessee, regardless of any court decision to the contrary," the bill states. "Any court decision purporting to strike down natural marriage, including Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. (2015), is unauthoritative, void, and of no effect."Obergefell v. Hodges is the case that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.


The bill would also prevent the arrest or fining of government officials who refuse to comply with marriage laws. It comes in the wake of the national debate over Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed after not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The bill's authors, Rep. Mark Pody and Sen. Mae Beavers, were cheered at a "Religious Freedom Rally" of about 400 people at the state capitol yesterday."Marriage is between a man and a woman in Tennessee," Pody yelled, according to the Tennessean.

Even if the bill passes—which seems unlikely, as even the state's conservative Republican governor has said same-sex marriage is the law of the land—there's no way it would hold up on appeal. Instead, the legal proceedings would end up costing the state, which would have to pay for the attorney fees of anyone who sues over the law and wins.

"This is futile, costly, and chaotic," Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, told WSMV. "Because I'll tell you, couples who want to get married will not take no for an answer."


The bill follows the historical legal idea of nullification, the unconstitutional argument that states can supersede federal laws. After the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawed school segregation in 1954, for example, multiple Southern state legislatures passed laws nullifying the ruling. The federal government ended up sending in troops to enforce the Court's ruling.

The Tennessee bill cites a more noble example of nullification: the 1857 Dred Scott case, in which the Court upheld a law about the capture of escaped slaves. The Wisconsin Supreme Court found that decision unconstitutional, and the state legislature passed multiple laws preventing the enforcement of Dred Scott.


It seems like Obergefell v. Hodges has sparked interest again in nullification. Several Republican presidential candidates, including Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, have called for states not to enforce the ruling.

Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.