A motion was filed Monday in the Chancery Court in Williamson County asking the court to set aside its earlier judgment dismissing the claims of five Williamson County residents who say Tennessee should not issue marriage licenses until a new statute is passed.
The Motion for Relief from Judgment asks the court to set aside its earlier judgment on June 14, 2016, dismissing the claims of five Williamson County residents related to the administration of Tennessee’s marriage licensing statutes by the Williamson County clerk following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Former State Sen. David Fowler said in a press release that he filed the motion as attorney for the Constitutional Government Defense Fund, the legal arm of the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT).
At least three of the plaintiffs are ministers at Middle Tennessee churches who say that Obergefell means Tennessee should not issue marriage licenses until a new statute is passed, according to Courthouse News Service.
George Grant, Larry Tomczak and Lyndon Allen filed a lawsuit on Jan. 21, 2016 against Elaine Anderson, clerk of Williamson County.
The other plaintiffs are Lyndon Allen and Tim McCorkle.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision overturned state laws banning same-sex marriage. So, the plaintiffs say, the decision invalidated Tennessee’s marriage law.
The plaintiffs say that the Tennessee General Assembly is the only authority in the case.
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Fowler said he believes the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ lawsuit violated the Tennessee Constitution’s marriage provisions and thus the dismissal should be “void and unenforceable.”
When same-sex couples sued Gov. Bill Haslam in October 2103, in a case known as Tanco v. Haslam, they did not sue over Tennessee’s marriage licensing statutes, only its laws regarding the recognition or non-recognition by Tennessee of marriages lawfully entered into in other states, Fowler said.
The plaintiffs have consistently said that the licensing statutes and the state constitution’s prohibition on licensing marriages without regard to the sex of the parties was still in force, but that the constitutionality of those laws needed to be determined in light of the Obergefell opinion.
“If the court refuses to set aside its judgment, then the provisions of Tennessee’s Constitution will continue to prohibit county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until a court decides to rule on the constitutional issue our clients have tried to have heard for the last three years,” Fowler said.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.