Discrimination in Social Services

Yes, Marriage Equality Is The Law – Even In Tennessee

  Rob Boston

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld marriage equality in a landmark case five years ago. Prior to the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, Christian nationalist groups asserted that if same-sex couples were allowed to have the same right to marry as opposite-sex couples, the country would collapse.

That hasn’t happened. Furthermore, most Americans support the ruling. Depending on which poll you look at, 61 percent to 68 percent of Americans back marriage equality. The figure is even higher among millennials. The country, it seems, sees the issue as no big deal and has moved on.

Well, most of the country has. In Tennessee, a lawyer named David Fowler and a band of far-right ministers he represents aren’t happy about the situation. Under the auspices of a group called the Family Action Council of Tennessee’s Constitutional Government Defense Fund, they’re writing letters to local officials hoping to spread confusion about the issue.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that Fowler sent a letter to all 95 county clerks in Tennessee, asserting that they are violating the law by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Fowler cites a provision of the Tennessee Constitution that limits marriage to opposite-sex couples. It is true that in 2006, Tennessee voters approved an anti-marriage equality amendment. It stated that the union of “one man and one woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state.” Several states had approved amendments like this, but they were invalidated by the Obergefell decision. They are no longer in effect.

Essentially, Fowler is asking county clerks to defy the U.S. Supreme Court. While there is an unfortunate history of that kind of behavior in some southern states, we know how it turned out – recalcitrant government officials lost.

Fowler and his clergy pals may not like it, but marriage equality is the law of the land, even in Tennessee. County clerks who have received his missive would be wise to give it all of the attention and consideration it deserves – by tossing it in the nearest trash can.

Government officials are public servants and must treat all Americans equally and fairly. They can’t refuse to serve people because of who they are, who they love or what they believe. Religious freedom means we all get to choose our faith, or no faith at all, as long as we don’t harm others. Americans United will continue to protect this fundamental principle – join us!

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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