Tennessee lawmakers have filed a bill to overturn same-sex marriage, which campaigners fear could destroy the fragile consensus on the issue.

Republican lawmakers Sen. Mark Pody and Rep. Jerry Sexton have filed the bill, known as the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act.



The bill declares that the 2015 US Supreme Court ruling in favour of equal marriage “does not apply” in Tennessee, as the state’s constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

The proposed law also seeks to enforce the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in Tennessee, prohibiting state government officials from recognising same-sex unions in any capacity.

LGBT+ campaigners fear Tennessee bill could bring same-sex marriage back to US Supreme Court

The bill also directs the state’s Attorney General to defend Tennessee law if there is any court battle on the issue—which campaigners say is a sign of the true motive behind the plan.

If passed, the legislation would result in a court battle that could have much wider consequences if it reaches the US Supreme Court.

Tennessee marriage bill: Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding equal marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty)

The US Supreme Court sided 5-4 in favour of equal marriage in 2015, but the fragile consensus on the issue has likely been overridden by President Donald Trump’s appointment of right-wing justice Brett Kavanaugh.

As Kavanaugh took the seat of retiring justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been the crucial swing vote in favour of equal marriage, it is possible that the Supreme Court would now side 5-4 against affirming same-sex marriage rights, threatening a backslide on the issue nationally.

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Speaking to the Tennessean newspaper, Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project said: “The far right’s dream scenario is this would go back before the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court would accept it.”

Anti-LGBT evangelicals set out ‘plan’ for rolling back equal marriage rights

In the past, anti-LGBT evangelicals have explicitly set out a plan for rolling back same-sex marriage rights by stacking the Supreme Court with conservatives

In a message to supporters in 2016, National Organisation for Marriage head Brian Brown set out the ‘secret’ strategy.

He said: “Here is our plan: We will work with President Trump to nominate conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, individuals who will adhere to the words and meaning of the constitution.

“Such justices will inevitably reverse the anti-constitutional ruling of the Supreme Court imposing same-sex ‘marriage’ on the nation in the Obergefell decision, because that decision lacked any basis in the constitution.”

The Tennessee anti-gay marriage bill is one of a number of anti-LGBT proposals put forward by Republicans in the state, with the plans dubbed the “slate of hate.”

Other bills under consideration seek to place legal restrictions on transgender people, while other ‘religious freedom’ measures seek to permit anti-LGBT discrimination.

Pro-LGBT religious leaders in the state have signed a letter opposing the measures, that says: “As leaders of faith communities we oppose these bills in the Tennessee General Assembly.

“They promote discrimination rather than justice and demean the worth of LGBTQ people in our state. We call on people of good will to join us in speaking out for basic fairness.”




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