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Tennessee Legislators Seek to Protect You From Judges

I want to thank some of our state legislators for taking a stand on a critical issue on your behalf that you probably know nothing about. Liberals and judges who hope to further transform our form of government to their liking hope that you will not read what follows.

Putting the Transformation in Context

To understand the next step in the judicial transformation of our country, you must understand the context. After 200 years, the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges asserted that the U.S. Constitution somehow gave it jurisdiction (power) over the Legislatures in the several states to redefine marriage. But then it purported to impose that definition on the states. Purporting to tell a state what laws it must enact was a huge overreach by the Supreme Court.

Now the question is whether that decision will be used by judges to assert jurisdiction over the state Legislatures to redefine what it means to be a parent and impose that definition on them. That very question will soon be answered in Tennessee.

When is a ‘Wife’ not a ‘Mother’ of a Child?

This question arises because of a lawsuit pending in Knoxville. Two “married” lesbian women are seeking a divorce. Nothing too controversial about that anymore, but what is controversial is whether the wife who is not related to the child biologically is the “mother” of the child. The answer is important because a mother’s custody rights have historically depended on that person actually being the child’s biological mother.

To obtain custody rights, the woman not related to the child biologically points to a statute the Legislature enacted by law forty years ago. That statute says a child will be presumed to be the legitimate child of a “husband and wife” if the wife has a child by artificial insemination with the consent of “her husband.”

Clearly, though, she is not a “husband,” so she argues that the Obergefell decision now requires the Court to “interpret” the statute by substituting the word “spouse” for the word “husband.” Sadly, Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert Slatery has filed a brief in support of her argument.

Who Gets to Decide the Policy Question?

What our attorney general seems not to understand is that substituting the word “spouse” for the word “husband” is a change in the underlying public policy reflected in the statute. It is a change from a belief that complementarity exists between the biological sexes and that it has value in the nurture of a child to a belief that there either is no complementarity between the sexes or, if there is, it makes no difference in the life of a child. Worse yet, the judge in the case has already said that “no policy [is] being determined by the Court” in connection with this suggested interpretation of the statute!

Legislators to the Rescue

Because our attorney general doesn’t seem to know that there are two different belief systems in conflict here, and that different belief systems affect policy decisions in different ways, 52 state representative and 19 state senators are asking the judge in that case to let them intervene. They want to defend the authority given them under the state constitution to decide how to determine and address parent-child relationships in these new marital contexts. I am proud to represent them.

How This Case Transforms Government

You might think, “Who cares?” since you are not in a same-sex “marriage” and you had children the old fashioned way. Moreover, you may be wondering how this case affects a transformation of government. Here’s the answer.

Our attorney general, with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, is effectively urging our judges to continue shifting the balance of powers in our government away from elected, accountable representatives to themselves.

When government’s power gets shifted from those you can elect and can hold accountable to judges who you really cannot elect and cannot hold accountable, then power has shifted away from you.

If our judges agree with our attorney general, then their decision will become judicial precedent for rewriting other laws, maybe one you do actually care about. With each such decision, our judges will effectively be shifting public policy decisions right out from under your control. While you watch the state Capitol for “bad” laws, the transformation of government itself is taking place in the courthouse.

If someday you find yourself completely powerless before a black-robed oligarchy, you’ll know why.

Thank God these legislators are fighting for you.

Read the Motion to Intervene


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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TN Senate Bill 752 / TN House Bill 892

BILL SUMMARY

This bill is also known as the Natural Marriage Defense Act. It declares that Tennessee will only recognize and give effect to marriages between one man and one woman and will not recognize any court decision that purports to strike down natural marriage.

BILL ANALYSIS

As with a similar bill filed last year, there are several potential legal issues with this bill as written, because of its requirement that the state ignore or “nullify” any court decision, including the U.S. Supreme Court, that issues a ruling contrary to Tennessee state policy on marriage. It could result in all local officials having to defend at local expense lawsuits by same-sex couples for civil rights violations and reimburse the litigants’ legal fees if they lose the lawsuits.

The bill is an improvement on last year’s bill in that would make the state liable to civil rights lawsuits for the non-issuance of same-sex marriage licenses instead of county clerks.

BILL SPONSORS

Beavers in the Senate, Pody in the House

TRACK THIS BILL

Full Text: Senate Bill / House Bill

BILL STATUS

Check back to find out the status of this bill.

Cleaning Up the Supreme Court’s Obergefell Mess

When the U.S. Supreme Court in the Obergefell case decided it could redefine marriage for all the states, it created a mess. Fixing it will take an assist from the states. A decision this week by the same state Supreme Court that first gave us same-sex “marriage” demonstrates the problem. Perhaps Tennessee can help bring about the fix.

In 2003, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts said that the state constitution required same-sex “marriage.” But the state’s Legislature did not revise all the statutes governing family law to reflect this redefinition of marriage. My guess is that no state has changed all its family laws as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision. Tennessee sure hasn’t. And that is what is creating the current mess.

This week the Massachusetts Supreme Court said that a woman was the legal parent of a child her female partner had by artificial insemination. Note: they were not married. The lawyer for the woman not related to the child cited two laws to give herself the legal status of parent (incidentally, the lawyer is Mary Bonauto, who argued for the same-sex couples in Obergefell).

First, Ms. Bonauto argued that the “paternity” statutes justified the claim that her female client should be “deemed” the child’s other legal parent. Given that the word “paternity” means “the state or fact of being the father of a particular child” and comes from the Latin word paternus, meaning “of a father,” do you now see the problem? How can a woman be a “father” unless words in statutes no longer have their common meaning? And on what basis could a court “interpret” away the clear meaning of that word?

Well, Ms. Bonauto argued that the statutes do not define “mother” and “father,” which she asserted left the Court free to give those words new meaning to conform to the new meaning of marriage. Makes perfect sense to me—if a court can redefine marriage, why can’t it redefine “husband” and “paternity” (and, really, any word in the English language)? You have to wonder what legislators were thinking years ago when they didn’t bother to define the terms “father” and “mother”!

But Ms. Bonauto also argued that the statute on artificial insemination involving a “husband and wife” should be interpreted to apply to her as well. Makes sense, too—if a court can redefine “father” and “mother,” surely it can redefine “husband” and “wife.”

Before you say, “Thank God we live in Tennessee,” consider the fact Ms. Bonauto has commented on the artificial insemination lesbian divorce case in Tennessee in which I am involved on behalf of 53 state legislators. She said, “As a matter of supremacy . . . the Tennessee statutes must be construed to comply with Obergefell’s constitutional commands.”

In other words, she is saying that the U.S. Supreme Court has put the Tennessee courts (and all state courts, really) in the position of having to rewrite all of their state’s family law under the guise of constitutional “interpretation.” However, if they don’t, if they can resist the judicial activism we saw in Massachusetts this week, then perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, on appeal from cases like the one in Tennessee, will realize it’s going to have to rewrite all the family law in every state and that doing so will be going too far, destroying the Court’s last vestige of legitimacy.

Hopefully, if confronted with situations like these and the contortions in legal reasoning they will have to engage in to reinterpret every state’s family law, the Supreme Court will realize why our Founding Fathers left family law up to each state and will reverse Obergefell.

For that to happen, some state courts are going to have to force the issue back to the U.S. Supreme Court by refusing to do their dirty work for them, and legislators are going to have to resist the temptation to change the wording in our statutes. Legislators need to leave our laws alone and, looking our state judges in the eye, dare them to reinterpret the plain language of statutes they have passed.

The process starts in Tennessee on October 21st when a Knoxville trial court will decide whether the word “husband” in Tennessee’s insemination statute includes a “lesbian spouse.” Stay tuned. The road to returning marriage back to the states may run through Tennessee.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Is Quitting the Best Way to Defend Marriage?

This week I couldn’t help but think of what Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” It came to mind when I learned a national organization I respect was quitting on the most important issue of our time.

This week I learned that a legal organization I respect and have supported financially was closing its “Marriage and Family” division. They had reached the pragmatic (they would say “prudential”) conclusion that it wasn’t a good use of time to continue the fight for the biblical and historic definition of marriage by seeking ways to get the issue back before the United States Supreme Court.

In my opinion, the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision is the Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade decision of our generation. Yet going forward this organization is going to defend marriage only in the context of the religious liberty rights of those who have a biblical view of marriage.

I am all for that, but same-sex “marriage” is perhaps the greatest threat to religious liberty and freedom of conscience there is! To concede that Courts can change the millennia-old meaning of marriage is to concede religious liberty in time. Cannot the 200-year-old meaning of “free exercise” in the First Amendment be changed, too? Of course it can.

Sadly, this organization is not alone. Recently, a friend in a meeting hosted by a national organization featuring a number of national players said many spoke as if the U.S. Supreme Court had legally amended state marriage statutes by judicial fiat, changing the words “male and female” in the marriage license statutes to “party 1 and party 2.”

I couldn’t help but think, Can’t we at least talk about the issue in a way that makes sure our folks know that the Court was lawless and that it did what no court has ever attempted to do before? How will we ever get people to rise up and demand judicial reform if they think the courts are doing what they are supposed to be doing?

And, of course, there was no talk of finding a way to attack, undermine, or limit the Obergefell decision. None!

In contrast, in After the Ball—How America Will Conquer Its Fear & Hatred of Gays in the 90’s, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen wrote that the LGBT community had to take on “antigay actions.” The “first class of actions” in which they had to engage was to attack “laws which criminalize the sex acts commonly associated with homosexuality”—state sodomy laws. And they did.

Repealing those laws went quickly in some areas of the country, but then progress began to slow go. So they resorted to their trusted friend, the federal courts, to strike down all the remaining laws at once. In 1986 that tactic hit a roadblock. In Bowers v. Hardwick, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state sodomy statutes were not unconstitutional.

But the LGBT community did not quit, like our side is doing with marriage. Instead they turned to state court lawsuits to get the state courts to find the protection for homosexual behavior that Bowers said was not in the U.S. Constitution.

They won multiple times in state court, and then they returned to federal courts with five different lawsuits to raise a narrower issue than a right to homosexual conduct—i.e., the right to equal protection based on the fact that some states only criminalized homosexual sodomy, not heterosexual sodomy.

Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 was the result—all state sodomy laws were declared unconstitutional. Seventeen years of fighting in the courts, and they finally got what they were denied in Bowers! And twelve years later, Lawrence v. Texas became the foundation for Obergefell and same-sex “marriage.”

For what it is worth, the organization I lead is not giving up. We are following the path followed to overturn the sodomy laws. We’ve filed actions in state court and are looking at getting involved in yet another. We are narrowing the scope of the issues, rather than attacking Obergefell head on.

Will we win? I don’t know. But I know Lombardi was right—quitters never win.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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The Tipping Point

In 1996 Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article called “The Tipping Point” (later a book), an analysis of how social behaviors reach a certain point and then “take off.” America is coming to a legal “tipping point” that will either restore the rule of law and the Constitution or destroy them both.

Last month I wrote about the first shot fired in the new “Civil War” when Gov. Cuomo banned all non-essential travel to North Carolina because it chose to designate multi-occupancy public bathrooms according to biological sex rather than gender identity. In the last ten days, the volleys in this new war kept coming.

Last week fifty-one families sued the Chicago public school system for its gender-bending bathroom policy, arguing that it violated their children’s constitutional right to bodily privacy that previous courts have found in the Constitution.

Fast-forward to this week. On Monday the state of North Carolina sued the United States and its Department of Justice on the grounds that the department has no authority to assert that the prohibition in the 1964 Civil Rights law against discrimination based on biological sex now means “gender identity,” the sex you think you are in your head. The Department of Justice immediately sued the state back.

The next day North Carolinians for Privacy, an unincorporated non-profit association, sued the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education for, among other things, asserting as a “rule” its sex-means-gender-identity philosophy is unconstitutional because that “rule” was never lawfully adopted as a real rule in accordance with the administrative procedures act.

And while not widely discussed or appreciated, the lawsuit our organization has filed has added to this legal conflict. It asks our state courts whether the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision on same-sex “marriage” invalidated our state’s marriage license statute or amended it, statutory amendments being something a court clearly has no constitutional authority to do. The Supreme Court had to do one of the other, because certainly no new statute has been enacted by the General Assembly that would authorize same-sex “marriage” licenses.

What does all this mean? It means the Supreme Court’s legitimacy is about to reach a tipping point.

In 1992 Justice Souter, in sustaining the constitutional validity of Roe v. Wade, said, “If the Court’s legitimacy should be undermined, then so would the country be in its very ability to see itself through its constitutional ideals.” He added, “The Court’s concern with legitimacy is not for the sake of the Court but for the sake of the nation to which it is responsible.”

All these lawsuits are putting the Court on a collision course with its legitimacy. They are putting the Court in a position in which it must begin to overrule, in some instances, literally hundreds of years of constitutional precedent and established norms of constitutional and statutory construction in order to reach the result its majority philosophically agrees with, which is the Obama administration’s position.

In the next year or two, these lawsuit will force the Court either to return to the rule of law and stop killing the Constitution by trying to make it a “living instrument” or kill the rule of law, kill the Constitution, and assert its supremacy over all things governmental in our nation. In other words, the Court is about to reach the legitimacy tipping point.

Personally, I suspect that the Court will reach the results it desires, not those that the Constitution and its precedence would require. That is when we will find out which of two tipping points Americans will have reached.

Will we have gotten to the point we just don’t care so long as we have a job and enough things to entertain us, or will we then realize the truth of what Justice Scalia said last summer—we are no longer our own rulers, but we are ruled by “a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court?” Only if we reach the latter tipping point will Americans take it upon themselves, as Scalia said, to remind the Court of its “impotence” and demand that Congress do something about it.

The tipping point is coming, America. What side will you tip toward?


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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