by Jeff Woods
Conservative Christians are calling for the attorney general to take action on a couple of fronts in their crusade against gays and lesbians.
First, they want him to go to court to nullify Collegedale’s decision to pay health benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees. The state constitution’s ban on gay marriage forbids cities from adopting policies that recognize same-sex marriage and, according to the Tennessee Family Action Council’s David Fowler, that’s what Collegedale is doing.
As we noted in this week’s Scene, our constitutional amendment reads, in pertinent part:
Any policy or law or judicial interpretation, purporting to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one man and one woman is contrary to the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable in Tennessee.
What will Cooper do? A Democrat who probably would just as soon let Collegedale do its own thing, he's playing it cagey.
“We will continue to watch events around the state and take steps when appropriate in light of the fact that the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision did not invalidate state laws regarding marriage,” his office says in a statement.
Second, Bible thumpers want the attorney general to file a brief defending Tennessee’s ban on gay marriage in a court case making its way from Ohio to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Tennessee. The lower-court ruling requires Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal. If the 6th Circuit upholds the ruling, then Tennessee would have to recognize those marriages too.
Again, Cooper won’t say what he’ll do — only that he’ll act “if appropriate.”
The whole deal could add fuel to the Republican supermajority’s move to put the attorney general under its thumb. This year, the Senate voted 22-9 to amend the Tennessee constitution to take away the Supreme Court’s power to appoint the state attorney general and give it to the legislature.
If the House adopts this resolution next year, it will need to pass the next General Assembly by a two-thirds vote, and then it will go on the ballot for voter approval in the 2018 election