By: Bonnie Davis Guy
Johnson County Commissioners may be the governing body of a small mountain town but they have taken on the huge issue of traditional marriage by sending a resolution to request the State of Tennessee to oppose the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize non-traditional marriage both through legal and legislative action. The resolution calls for Tennessee to reaffirm the states authority to regulate domestic relations (marriage). Tennessees constitution contains an amendment which in effect states that marriage is between one man and one woman. TN Constitution Section 18 to Article XI states same sex marriages will not be recognized as legal. A legal marriage/union in the State of Tennessee is only to be recognized if said marriage is between one man and one woman.
The Johnson County resolution outlines its reasoning behind asking the state to reaffirm its authority in the matter of traditional marriage. In 2006 the citizens of Tennessee voted and determined by an 81 percent margin that the state is to recognize marriage as between one man and one woman. All other unions would not be considered legal marriage. Further, the United States Supreme Court in the case U.S. vs Windsor recognized the states authority to regulate the subject of domestic relations with respect to the protection of offspring, property interest and the enforcement of marital responsibilities as written in the majority opinion by Justice Kennedy. The court further declined to decide whether the right to marry by same sex participants was a legal right protected by the United States Constitution.
The Johnson County resolution encourages lawmakers in Nashville by stating that the individual states in the United States have had the authority to regulate and define marriage without interference from the federal government or its courts since the countrys founding.
In June 2015 the Supreme Court made a decision in the case of Obergefell vs Hodges that determined all constitutional amendments in any state prohibiting same sex marriage to be unconstitutional. This decision revokes the rights of an individual state and its citizens to make their own laws regarding traditional marriage. In light of this ruling, same sex marriage has been occurring in all 50 states regardless of the states constitution and laws. In light of this ruling the Johnson Countys Legislative body by resolution is requesting that the state, including Senator Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and Representative Timothy Hill, be proactive and introduce legislation to defend the rights of the State of Tennessee.
Upon the committees vote of approval of the resolution, Chairman Mike Taylor spoke to his fellow commissioners saying, We all took an oath to uphold the values and wishes of this state and this county. I am very proud that we are seeking to do this through our resolution. Our countys citizens voted at 88 percent to only recognize traditional marriage. We need to honor that vote and the traditional values of this county and this state.
In a later interview Taylor also said, The goal of our action would be to see all Tennessee county commissions come together to empower and support our state representatives in their efforts to reaffirm the decision made by 81 percent of all voting Tennesseans that marriage is between one man and one woman.
County clerks throughout the country have been in the crossfire of this issue, some even facing jail terms rather than abide by the Supreme Court ruling. Others choose to issue the license, however they no longer perform marriage ceremonies.
When asked her opinion of the resolution, Johnson County Court Clerk Tammie Fenner said, I agree with the resolution. I feel strongly each state should be able to govern themselves in these matters.
Representative Timothy Hill was very swift in responding to a request to discuss this resolution. He said he anticipates many more resolutions, requests for action, and bills coming before legislators once they go back into session in January.
Representative Hill says, I am grateful for the stand the commissioners are taking. I am in full agreement and support the resolution. I fully intend to support those bills and to do what the resolutions are calling for legislators to do in reaffirming state authority to regulate marriage.