Commissioners Postpone Critical Business After Pointless Anti-Gay Resolution Leads to Overflow Crowd
Commissioners in Washington County, Tennessee had plenty of substantive issues to address during their regular meeting on Monday night, from road funding to redistricting and redevelopment. In fact, their agenda was 600 pages long, and some of the items were described as urgent.
However, thanks to a proposed resolution against same-sex marriage on the agenda that would have no legal impact, commissioners were forced to postpone the meeting for at least 10 days. That's because an estimated 350 people showed up, with many wearing red in opposition to the anti-gay marriage resolution. The 200-seat meeting room was filled to capacity, with 150 to 200 people still in the lobby, prompting commissioners to cancel the meeting to comply with the state's Open Meetings Act.
"Never before have I seen the interest in an item, in a topic that we see here," Commissioner David Tomita told WCYB-TV. "I think we had some items on the agenda that required immediate attention. I'm sorry that we're not attending to the business of the county but I think it's more important that we make accommodations to anyone who wants to participate in the process to have access."
Washington County, situated in the northeast corner of the state with a population of 123,000, would have been the ninth in Tennessee to pass a resolution calling on Tennessee to defy the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. However, the legislation the resolutions are designed to support — state Rep. Mark Pody's "Natural Marriage Defense Act" — was rejected by a legislative committee last week.
Even Washington County residents who support the anti-gay resolution were frustrated that it led to Monday's meeting being canceled.
"We’re allowing a minor issue that has nothing to do with the county or state to interfere with important business," Jeff Dupre told The Johnson City Press.
Highway superintendent Johnny Deakins said cancellation of the meeting could hurt the county's chances of obtaining $1.2 million in road funding from the state. Deakins had hoped to get the commission to sign a letter in support of state legislation needed to allocate the money.
"Anytime you’ve got the County Commission backing the effort, it’s better than doing it alone," Deakins told the newspaper.
Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge lamented that developers from as far away as Knoxville were at the meeting to discuss projects in Johnson City.
Opponents of the marriage resolution, especially those who were stuck in the lobby, said they were pleased with the decision to cancel the meeting.
"Obviously our community has strong feelings on this and we need to have a public forum where people can come and voice their opinions," Jon Tully told WCYB.
Commissioner Forrest Boreing, sponsor of the anti-gay resolution, told the station he was proud to stand up for what he believes as a Christian.
Elsewhere, commissioners in Tennessee's Hawkins and Hickman counties approved resolutions opposing same-sex marriage on Monday. In Hawkins County, the vote was 13-3, with commissioners who opposed the resolution calling it divisive and saying it violates their oath to uphold the Constitution, according to The Times News. But Commissioner B.D. Cradic, sponsor of the resolution, told his colleagues they're governed by a higher power and would be held accountable by God for their votes.
“God, he loves everybody. I love everybody as well. But there’s certain things in the Bible that goes against nature itself," Cradic said. “They have turned the law of the land into all kinds of different things contrary to the word of God. Based on that my oath first of all is to serve God.”
Hawkins County resident Jody Erwin, who spoke against the resolution, told commissioners that the group behind it — the Family Action Council of Tennessee — doesn't represent all Christians.
“I’m here today to express my horror at a group using religious indignation to suppress this small minority,” Erwin said. “If they had come before you first with a resolution condemning divorce, a subject that’s well covered in the Bible, and a real threat to over half of all marriages, I might believe that they are trying to uphold the sanctity of marriage. Since this is not the case, I must conclude it’s homophobic hysteria, which makes them the problem.”
Watch a report on the Washington County meeting from WJHL-TV above.
Images via Facebook