Obergefell-Related Marriage Lawsuit Advances in Court!

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (June 1, 2017) —Tuesday we received notice that Judge Pemberton denied the various motions made to dismiss the Obergefell-related marriage lawsuit filed in Bradley County by FACT’s Constitutional Government Defense Fund (CGDF).

FACT’s president, David Fowler, who as an attorney is handling the lawsuit on behalf of the CGDF, said the following:

It is very gratifying that the judge recognized the fact that no state court in Tennessee and no federal court have determined the effect of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision on Tennessee marriage license law. Sadly, most people have been willing to overlook the legal and constitutional questions left open by Obergefell, making this the only case of its kind in the nation. So we are grateful that the judge believes our clients have the legal right to raise those questions and that he is willing to decide them.

Background to the Litigation

In January 2016, CGDF filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Bradley County, Tenn., minister and County Commissioner. The suit asked the court to determine whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, had invalidated Tennessee marriage license law or whether the Court, by that decision, had for the first time in history effectively “amended” a state law.

The lawsuit highlights the fact that the Obergefell Court held that “state laws are invalid to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from marriage,” yet states are acting as if their laws are not only still valid, but have been effectively “amended” by the Court’s decision in a way that eliminates the “male and female” language from state statutes, such as is found in Tennessee law.

The U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals have previously held that any decision by a federal court as to whether unconstitutional language in a state statute can be eliminated so as to “save” the statute from being completely unconstitutional is a state court issue. It is for that reason that the CGDF believes the Obergefell Court did not address and left open the question of whether state marriage license laws had any continuing validity.

The Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT), which David Fowler heads, was formed in 2006 by a group of citizens concerned about the growing negative impact of public policies on marriage, families, life, and religious liberty. FACT’s mission is to equip Tennesseans and their elected officials to effectively promote and defend a culture that values God’s design for the family, for the sake of the common good. For more information, visit FACTn.org.

Media Contact: Laura Bagby, Director of Communications | Office Phone: 615-261-1338 | email: laura.bagby@factn.org