Just one day after a Tennessee House committee rejected a bill to nullify the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, the head of the state’s top conservative organization filed a lawsuithoping to, at the very least, stall same-sex marriage. And he has the support of several state lawmakers.
David Fowler, head of the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT), filed the state suit in Williamson County, asking County Clerk Elaine Anderson to cease issuing marriage licenses until the suit is resolved. His contention relies on a mix of odd technicalities relating to the impact of the Obergefell decision on Tennessee law, particularly the idea that the state’s entire marriage statute was invalidated. He argues that because lawmakers would never have passed a marriage law inclusive of same-sex couples, there is no longer any law stipulating marriage for any couple, and thus all marriage licenses issued in the state since last June are void. This, he fears, exposes the pastors who join him as plaintiffs to liability, because a separate Tennessee statute dictates that it is a Class C misdemeanor to solemnize a wedding between two people not legally eligible to marry, punishable by a $500 fine.
But Fowler doesn’t hide the fact that his clear intent is to create legal pathways to discriminate against same-sex couples, and perhaps even overturn Obergefell. He lays out his master plan on the FACT website, complete with a flowchart of the way he hopes to manipulate the case to undo marriage equality.
It's the a variation of the same argument Alabama has been using: state lawmakers haven't passed a law that has met with the Supreme Court's ruling, therefore same-sex marriages aren't legal until the law is passed.
The difference is that Fowler's group is arguing that all marriages performed since the Obergfell ruling are null and void because Tennessee's current marriage law, which banned same-sex marriage, would have been thrown out by the ruling, leaving no law governing marriage in the state.
So at this point, the question is "will a judge buy this argument" and will said judge vacate thousands of marriages in the state, including all the same-sex marriages, just to be assholes?
We'll find out.