Chris Johnson reports at the Washington Blade:
Nearly five years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for same-sex marriage nationwide, all 95 county clerks in Tennessee received a letter this week informing them they should be operating instead under the state constitution law that makes “void and unenforceable” any policy or law “purporting to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one man and one woman,” according to the Family Action Council of Tennessee.
The letter was composed by David Fowler, general counsel for the Government Defense Fund, a sister organization to the Family Action Council. Although Fowler didn’t explicitly threaten any legal action against the clerks, he says he’s representing ministers who are considering “what steps should next be taken by them…to be assured that they are not affirming a form of civil marriage contrary to their beliefs.”
The Chattanooga Free Press reports:
Fowler said in the letter the state’s clerks are breaking Title XI Section 8 of Tennessee’s Constitution, which reads, “the relationship of one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state” and that any policy, law or judicial interpretations that challenge that will be “void and unenforceable in Tennessee.”
Fowler, who is representing a group of 11 Christian ministers challenging the Tennessee Department of Health over the constitutionality of the state’s marriage license, said his clients face a “grave civil rights issue” of conscience and with the First Amendment after the 2015 decision that allowed same-sex marriage.
Fowler, a former state senator from Signal Mountain, has brought multiple lawsuits against Tennessee counties on similar grounds. Most of those cases have been dismisses.
In 2018 Fowler appeared on JMG when he spearheaded a successful campaign against a bill that would have banned child marriages. According to Fowler, that law would have made it harder to overturn same-sex marriage in Tennessee.