Tennessee Subcommittee Kills Bill To Void All Same-Sex Marriages – For Now
Tennessee State Rep. Mark Pody's bill that would have voided all marriages of same-sex couples, costing taxpayers an estimated $8.5 billion, has been defeated. Lawmakers on the House Civil Justice Subcommittee listened to religious and legal arguments for about 90 minutes, but on a voice vote elected to not move the legislation forward.
The Natural Marriage Defense Act would have declared all marriages of same-sex couples "void and unenforceable in Tennessee," specifically citing the Supreme Court's decision last year in Obergefell, stating it is invalid and that the State would ignore it.
As NCRM first reported last week, a state-required fiscal impact report found the legislation, should it become law, would cost the taxpayers of Tennessee $8.5 billion annually. Those costs do not appear to include court and legal costs. The majority of the costs would come as the withdrawal of federal funding of Tennessee's Obamacare program, food stamps (SNAP), and welfare payments (TANF).
While some of the debate focused on constitutional issues, including nullification of a Supreme Court ruling, some, thanks to pastors who spoke before the committee, included traditional anti-gay rhetoric. One pastor warned that same-sex marriage is “the invasion of the wicked agenda that is coming against the Church.”
“The ultimate authority that can nullify this law is the God of the Bible,” lawmakers were told.
Lindon Allen Nashville pastor saying God has given TN authority to nullify this issue. That marriage is only between one man/woman. #HB1412— TN Equality Project (@tnequality) January 20, 2016
Lawmakers were begged to offer Tennessee pastors "relief" from the fear of being forced to marry same-sex couples, despite the obvious fact that the First Amendment would prohibit such a governmental action. One speaker insisted that clerks charged with issuing marriage licenses are upset for having to do their job for same-sex couples. Kentucky clerk Kim Davis was mentioned.
“I remind you that your votes will not only be recorded in the annals of Tennessee, but also in the annals of heaven. #HB1412— Robbie Medwed (@rjmedwed) January 20, 2016
While welcome, the defeat should be viewed as temporary. Rep. Pody says that God talks to him personally, and directed him to file this legislation.
At the last minute an attempt was made to hold the bill over but on technical grounds that was not allowed. It should be expected the legislation, perhaps in a different format, will be filed again in the next session.
This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change. This story will be updated, and NCRM will likely publish follow-up stories on this news. Stay tuned and refresh for updates.