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Tennessee DA: ‘I don’t prosecute LGBT domestic violence because I don’t recognise it as marriage’

Emma Powys Maurice July 31, 2019
Tennessee DA Craig Northcott

Tennessee DA Craig Northcott speaking at a conference, "The Local Church’s Role in Government" (YouTube)

A Tennessee District Attorney is facing calls to resign after saying he wouldn’t prosecute cases of LGBT+ domestic violence because he doesn’t “recognise it as marriage.”

Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott is currently under Supreme Court investigation after a video surfaced of him making the homophobic comments at a conference.

“The social engineers on the Supreme Court decided that we now have homosexual marriage,” he said in the video. “I disagree with it, [so] what do I do with domestic assaults?

“On the one hand, I don’t prosecute them because I don’t recognise it as marriage. On the other hand, if I don’t prosecute him, then the sinner, the immoral guy, gets less punishment. What do you do?

“I said there’s no marriage to protect, so I don’t prosecute as domestic [violence], and that is one of many decisions like that that you face.”

A letter signed by over 330 lawyers is now urging the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility to issue an emergency suspension of Northcott’s law license.

Northcott also boasted of the ‘prosecutorial discretion’ in his role as DA, saying: “We can choose to prosecute anything, or we can choose not to prosecute anything up to and including murder. It’s our choice. … To deal with that, you elect a good Christian DA.”

In the longer video, Northcott appears to encourage county clerks to protest the issuing of marriage licenses to LGBT+ couples.

When asked how he would advise a Christian county clerk working in a marriage license office after the legalisation of gay marriage, Northcott replied: “It just comes down to, are you gonna do what man says or what God says.

“My advice to the clerk would be, ‘don’t succumb.'”

Northcott issued a written statement addressing the complaints against him, but refused to apologise for his comments. “I am a Christian. I am not ashamed of nor do I apologise for my beliefs,” he wrote.

He even insisted he actually had LGBT+ people’s interests in mind: “In fact, my intent was in part to honour what I know has been the desire of the LGBTQ community – keeping the government out of their bedrooms.”

Domestic violence “alarmingly” high among LGBT+ people

A recent US study found that internalised homophobia drives “alarmingly high rates” of domestic violence among male couples.

Research by Stonewall indicates that one in four lesbian and bi women have experienced domestic abuse in a relationship, and almost half of all gay and bi men have experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16.

Domestic violence is a serious problem for many in the LGBT+ community (Pexels)

Tennessee’s domestic violence laws apply to any people who live together, regardless of whether they have a sexual relationship. In ignoring this, Northcott’s complainants say he “incorrectly believes there are no bounds to prosecutorial discretion.”

Any attorney who believes he has the power to ignore the decisions of the United State Supreme Court is in violation of his oath

In a five-page response to Northcott’s statement, the 338 original complainants write: “Mr. Northcott’s written reply to the complaint removes all doubt as to his current defiance of the rule of law and intent to further engage in conduct beneath the decency required of our profession along with raising serious questions as to his competency and fitness to practice.

“Any attorney who believes he has the power to ignore the decisions of the United State Supreme Court is in violation of his oath and is disqualified from the practice of law.”

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