In Bradley County, Tennessee, a minister and a county commissioner are trying to Kim Davis their way out of giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Strike that: they don’t want to give marriage licenses to anyone.
The Rev. Guinn Green and Bradley County Commissioner Howard Thompson have filed a lawsuit against Donna Simpson, the county clerk in Bradley, requesting clarification on the status of marriage laws in Tennessee. Ultimately, they’re trying to find a way not to marry same-sex couples.
They claim that because marriage equality was previously outlawed in their state, and because the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize marriage equality nationwide did not create a new law to replace the old law, there is technically no law on the books governing how marriage licenses should be issued. Therefore, they don’t want to face punishments for officiating marriages that may or may not be valid. (Spoiler: They still are.)
They’re represented by David Fowler, who has ties to the conservative Family Action Council of Tennessee, so their motives are pretty obvious:
The Family Action Council’s website makes its opposition to marriage equality clear: “Support for same sex marriage reflects not only a misunderstanding of what marriage is, but a lack of appreciation for the impact a redefinition of marriage will have on society and the reasons that governments provide benefits and impose duties upon marriage.”
Fowler is representing plaintiffs in a similar suit filed in Williamson County, Tenn., January 21, the day after a Tennessee House committee rejected the so-called Natural Marriage Defense Act, which would have declared the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling void in the state.
Oh, and they also want Simpson’s office to stop issuing marriage licenses altogether in the meantime.
The suit seeks a decision that would declare those “provisions of the Tennessee law relative to the licensing of marriages are no longer valid and enforceable” after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in July which opened the door to legal same-sex marriages in the United States.
The plaintiffs also claim the issuance of marriage licenses “under these circumstances violates their aforesaid rights under the Tennessee Constitution.”
The Cleveland Banner lists out the eight “causes of action” named in the suit as support for the plaintiffs. For example: “Plaintiffs are uncertain if the criminal sanctions apply to them” if they refuse to officiate same-sex marriages on religious grounds. They also claimed that they have been denied “their right of suffrage, liberties and privileges” because they didn’t vote on marriage laws governing the clerk’s office.
Green and Thompson are asking the court to declare the current marriage statutes are “invalid and unenforceable; that criminal sanctions against the Plaintiffs are unenforceable if they do not sign or endorse certificates; and criminal sanctions and monetary penalties or judgements under Tennessee law do not apply to the Plaintiffs “if they officiate marriage ceremonies and that such constitute a marriage of common law.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling stands, and states are to follow suit. It’s that simple.