Anti-marriage equality resolutions are popping up in county commissions around the state. Here's a map where the battles have been fought. The latest hot spot is Knox County where there may be an effort to introduce and pass such a resolution on Monday, December 21.
Why do they matter and why should we fight them?
1. They are part of an effort to pass the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act. This state bill seeks to nullify the Supreme Court's marriage ruling. If counties pass resolutions in support of the bill, that encourages legislators from those counties to support the measure. Defeating these resolutions helps undercut a talking point for the bill.
2. The resolutions are harmful to the LGBT community in those counties. Even though the resolutions have no legal force and even if the Legislature passes its bill, it can only temporarily interrupt marriage equality, which is bad in itself. BUT...it sends a terrible message to LGBT youth and adults if their county legislative body denounces their rights. That is the kind of action that keeps people in the closet and contributes to higher suicide rates in our community. It makes it harder to pass positive protections for LGBT people in these counties.
3. Cost to the state and the counties. If the Legislature passes the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act, it will immediately be challenged in court and the State of Tennessee will LOSE! That will result in legal fees that are paid for by the tax payers. We're already facing legal bills of $2.3 million for the first round. It would not surprise me if the counties that passed resolutions urging the Legislature into this futile effort were sued too. They would certainly deserve it.
4. The resolutions represent bad governance by county legislative bodies. Often there is little public discussion of these measures. The Sullivan County Commission passed their resolution without it ever appearing on a county website in advance of the meetings where it was voted on. There was no real assessment of the legal implications or implications for economic development for the area.
The good news is that, with enough notice, the LGBT community and allies CAN defeat these resolutions, as the experience in Blount and Franklin Counties shows. So stay alert and be ready to show up for equality in your county if it becomes necessary.
As always, your support of our advocacy efforts is welcome. You fuel the fight!