Judge Upholds Tennessee's Gay Marriage Ban
In a decision that has broken a chain of judicial losses for those who support marriage between one man and one woman, a judge has ruled that Tennessee’s amendment banning legal recognition of same-sex marriage is constitutional.
The ruling is the first that has found the U.S. Constitution does not protect same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June of last year.
The Christian Post reported Tuesday that Roane County Circuit Court Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr. ruled last week in Borman v. Pyles-Borman against the claim that the state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The case actually involves two gay men who were legally married in Iowa in 2010 but live in Tennessee and now wish to be divorced. Iowa, however, requires that to be granted a divorce, the plaintiff must establish residency in the state for a minimum period of time.
Citing the 1972 decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court in the case Baker v. Nelson that the Constitution does not protect “a fundamental right” for same-sex couples to get married, Simmons wrote, “Baker holds that a state’s law on same-sex marriage does not violate the equal protection or substantive due process rights under the United States Constitution.”
“Although the United States Supreme Court has had opportunities to overrule the Baker decision, it has refused to take that position even in the decision on which the plaintiff relies, which is United States v. Windsor,” Simmons continued.
Though Simmons’ decision did not comment on the constitutionality of state-level same-sex marriage bans, a string of judges across the country have decided that some state bans violate the Constitution.
In 2006, the citizens of Tennessee, as well as those of other states, voted to approve a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The ballot initiative, known as Amendment 1, passed with an overwhelming majority of 81 percent of voters. Virginia, Wisconsin, South Dakota, South Carolina, Idaho, and Colorado also passed similar bans against same-sex marriages.
Simmons continued in his Memorandum Opinion:
In the Windsor case the Supreme Court opines that if a state finds same-sex marriage to be valid, the Federal Government cannot trump that State’s law. The Supreme Court does not go the final step and find that a State that defines marriages as a union of one (1) man and one (1) woman is unconstitutional. Further, the Supreme Court does not find that one state’s refusal to accept as valid another States [sic] valid same-sex marriage to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
“The State also takes the position that the laws and Constitution of Tennessee do not deny equal protection,” wrote Simmons, “because they do not burden a fundamental right, target a suspect class, or intentionally treat one differently than others similarly situated without any rational basis…”
“The Court finds that marriage is a fundamental right,” the judge added. “However, neither the Tennessee Supreme Court nor the United States Supreme Court has ever decided that this fundamental right under a state’s laws extends beyond the traditional definition of marriage as a union between one (1) man and one (1) woman.”
Despite the fervor with which gay activists have seized upon the narrative that to refuse same-sex marriage is discriminatory, and the insistence of the Obama administration to push the LGBT community into the spotlight at every opportunity, last month The Washington Post reported that the National Health Interview Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 1.6 percent of respondents self-identified as gay or lesbian. Even fewer, 0.7 percent, self-identified as bisexual. The outcome of this study suggests that the gay population in the United States is far less than perceived.