On June 26, 2015, in what Justice Antonin Scalia characterized as a ruling “lacking even a thin veneer of law”, five unelected lawyers on the United States Supreme Court published their opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges that traditional one man one woman marriage was no longer the law of the land.
Unfortunately, within days of the Obergefell opinion, Governor Haslam and Attorney General Slatery plunged Tennesseans into a moral and constitutional quagmire via their use of illegal executive decrees recognizing “same sex marriage” as “legal” within the State of Tennessee. Because the Tennessee Code can only be enacted by the State Assembly, the Governor’s actions were, in and of themselves, “lacking even a thin veneer of law.”
The Constitution of these United States of America specifically enumerates the powers of the federal government, including the judiciary. The Tenth Amendment precisely states that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
As the regulation of marriage is not a federally enumerated power, no branch of the federal government has the constitutional authority to interfere with the institution.
The only constitutionally sound resolution of the Obergefell opinion would be for the Assembly to ignore/nullify it on the basis of the Tenth Amendment alone.
In order to resolve the untoward actions of Governor Haslam and Attorney General Slatery and to further clarify that the only legal definition of marriage for the citizens of Tennessee is the union of one man one woman, The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act (HB 1412/SB 1437) was introduced in the General Assembly. Unfortunately, the House quickly moved to squelch HB 1412 in sub committee, thereby denying the citizens of Tennessee, who made the definition of marriage a part of our Constitution, the opportunity to have their representatives take a stand for both traditional marriage and constitutional integrity via a vote before the full House, much less offer any amendments they believe would strengthen the bill.
Several well-meaning Assembly members have introduced resolutions opposing the Obergefell decision; but these resolutions take the posture that the decision actually does exercise a power to amend Tennessee statutes and their enforcement. Since the decision failed to act within the jurisdictional power of the Supreme Court, and since no judiciary action can amend a statute, the posture of accepting that a legitimate power was exercised is self-defeating.
Other legislators advise re-litigating “same sex marriage”; initially within the State Courts and then, eventually, yet again in the Federal Courts.
I do not question the sincerity of the legislators’ motivations, only the efficacy of their proposed solutions. Why do we even accept the premise of seeking redress from those who took from us God-given, constitutionally-protected freedoms that were and are not theirs to take?
If we cannot honor our oaths of office and take a definitive stand by nullifying enforcement of the immoral, illegal and unconstitutional Obergefell opinion; if we cannot take an unwavering and principled stand for something so fundamental as traditional marriage; is there any principle, any freedom, we will not sacrifice?
The First and Second Amendments – as well as other constitutionally-protected freedoms – are already under a seemingly unending barrage of attacks. If we fail to stand on this issue, we render the not only the United States and Tennessee constitutions null and void, we become complicit in undermining the very foundations of our constitutional, federal, republic.
As for me, I am resolved to protect and defend the Constitution of these United States of America and the Constitution of the Great State of Tennessee against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. I ask that my colleagues in the Tennessee General Assembly do no less especially those that supported the legislation making the marriage amendment part of our state constitution!
Senator Mae Beavers
Tennessee District 17