Tennessee lawsuit's strategy to overturn gay marriage: nobody can get married


You know what they say, if you can’t beat ’em, burn it all to the ground.

The Tennessean reports a lawsuit challenging the legality of gay marriage in the state is attempting to convince a judge that all marriage in the state is invalid.

The lawsuit, filed by the Constitutional Government Defense Fund in Williamson County Chancery Court, seeks to change the interpretation of a Supreme Court ruling in June that legalized same-sex marriage for most of America. The decision by the court that the 14th Amendment guaranteed same-sex couples the same rights as straight couples is generally understood to mean state laws restricting marriage to heterosexual couples are unconstitutional.

But The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reports the lawsuit makes the argument that the entire state marriage license law should be considered invalid by the decision, since the act limits unions to only straight couples. That would mean no one would be able to legally marry in the state of Tennessee, regardless of their sexuality.

Former state senator David Fowler, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Defense Fund, seemed pretty pleased with the legal maneuver in comments to the Tennessean.

“How does anyone, regardless of the sexes of the parties, get a valid marriage license pursuant to an invalid law?” he said, according to the Tennessean.

Whether the court buys the reach-around logic of the suit, it’s been a while since Fowler and anyone opposed to marriage equality has had something resembling a victory. The day before he filed his suit, The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported a state Legislature subcommittee killed the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act,” which would’ve forbidden county clerks from issuing licenses of same-sex marriages. And a national poll by the Pew Research Center showed that over the last 15 years, Americans have gone from opposing same-sex marriage, by a margin of 57%, to supporting it by about 55%.

But civil rights groups are still monitoring Fowler’s lawsuit closely, according to the Tennessean.

“We should take this absolutely seriously,” Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, told theTennessean. “If they have found an angle, you could see this replicated in other states.”

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