Though many might think we have only championed traditional marriage in the last few years, standing for biblical marriage is something we have done since we launched as a family policy council ten years ago.
FACT was born out of the need to have an organization in Tennessee that national allies like Focus on the Family could work with to help pass the “marriage amendment” that was to be on the Tennessee ballot in 2006. The desire was to have an organization that could continue on beyond the ballot issue to champion a biblical perspective on cultural and policy issues in Tennessee before the state Legislature.
And so it was in 2006 that FACT, looking to the guiding hand of Focus on the Family’s policy arm (now known as Family Policy Alliance), was organized. Its first task was to coordinate and lead the Real Marriage campaign to pass the Tennessee Marriage Protection Amendment, which specified that only a marriage between a man and a woman could be legally recognized in the state of Tennessee. What a God-orchestrated success that campaign was! Tennessee’s amendment passed by the second-highest margin of all the 38 states that eventually passed marriage amendments; that’s more than 80 percent!
But that was just the start of FACT’s work on defending God’s design for marriage.
Defending One Man, One Woman Marriage in the Courts
When Tennessee’s marriage law was challenged in federal court in 2014, FACT went to work. First, FACT worked with one of its national allies, Alliance Defending Freedom, to solicit legislators to join an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Then, on August 6, 2014, when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati weighed the constitutionality of marriage laws in Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio in Obergefell v. Hodges, FACT President, David Fowler, was there at the courthouse reporting on the case.
The Sixth Circuit’s decision on November 6, 2014, upheld the traditional view of marriage as between one man and one woman. However, this victory was short lived, as the case then went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Prior to the oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28th, 2015, FACT initiated 40 Days of Prayer for Marriage, launching a Facebook page and webpage by that name. Each day prayer points were offered over social media and more than 8,000 Americans (not just Tennesseans) wound up praying for the oral arguments and the Supreme Court.
On Friday, June 26, 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the votes of 50 million Americans who were for traditional marriage and told the states that it was unconstitutional to limit civil marriage laws to a man and a woman.
Though the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled, that was not the end of FACT’s defense of marriage.
Defending Biblical Marriage Through Reclaiming Our Liberty
At the behest of House Speaker Beth Harwell, FACT was asked to address the House Republican Caucus in regard to the ruling and its implications for Tennessee. Eventually, FACT was asked to work with leaders on the House Republican Caucus Marriage Task Force appointed by Speaker Harwell.
As a result of hours of research, prayer, and consultation with other lawyers, FACT launched its Reclaiming Our Liberty Initiative in October 2015. One part of that initiative called on citizens to petition their local County Commissioners to pass resolutions demanding that Congress reign in the Supreme Court and that the state defend its rights to set marriage policy. Thanks to bold efforts from our constituents, thirteen counties were petitioned and nine of those counties passed resolutions. Those resolutions provided a solid foundation for resolutions later passed by the General Assembly.
As part of Reclaiming our Liberty, FACT created a subdivision called the Constitutional Government Defense Fund and filed the only lawsuits to date challenging the Supreme Court’s authority to make de facto amendments to state marriage statutes. One was filed in Williamson County (January 21, 2016) and one was filed in Bradley County (February 4, 2016).
The lawsuit is currently pending before the Court with procedural motions relative to the case to be decided in the coming days.
Passing Marriage-Defending Resolutions in the TN Legislature
Along with these lawsuits, Family Action of Tennessee, the legislative arm of FACT, championed House Joint Resolution 528 through the TN General Assembly. The resolution called on members of Congress to adopt an amendment returning authority over the definition of marriage back to the states and to take specific steps to make the federal judiciary more accountable to the people. It passed the state House 75-19 and passed the state Senate 24-1.
Family Action also brought to the Legislature House Joint Resolution 529. The resolution affirms the legal principle that the Obergefell Court overreached its judicial authority by purporting to require states to affirmatively enact same-sex “marriage” licensing laws. The resolution will be part of the case being made before the state courts in the previously mentioned lawsuit and will support the legal theory upon which the lawsuit is based. The resolution passed the state House 73-18 and passed the state Senate 27-2.
Thanks to your faithful prayers and generous financial support, we have come a long way in a decade to stand in the gap and advocate for life, family, marriage, and religious liberty in our state.