Tennessee House Votes to Advance Empty Resolution Opposing Marriage Equality Ruling

Today, the Tennessee House voted 73 to 18 to advance House Joint Resolution (HJR) 0529, an empty resolution stating support for a Williamson County lawsuit opposing the US Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality last June. The Senate must now concur with the resolution for it to achieve full passage.

This vote on HJR 0529 is entirely symbolic and allows lawmakers to express their animosity for the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling after lawmakers voted down the Natural Marriage Defense Act last month, an extreme measure which disgracefully sought to eliminate marriage equality in the state and require the state to defend in court marriage as “between one man and one woman.”

“Though only symbolic, this shameful vote to encourage defiance of the highest court in the land is a slap in the face to loving and committed same-sex couples all over the Volunteer State,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Lawmakers should be using their time and resources to help all families, but instead have prioritized a mean-spirited resolution that serves absolutely no legitimate purpose.”

Chris Sanders, Executive Director of the Tennessee Equality Project condemned House passage of HJR529 today on the House floor, stating, “Though it has no legal force, the resolution insults the LGBT community with yet another vote on something that should not be voted on, namely, basic rights. The resolution furthermore celebrates lawsuits against local governments in our state, which will take up the time of county clerks and the resources of taxpayers. Yet, the Legislature refused an amendment by Rep. Sherry Jones, which would have required the state to pay for legal costs associated with the lawsuits. Legislative attacks on Tennessee's LGBT community have become desperate and bizarre.”

Thom Kostura & Ijpe DeKoe are one of the three Tennessee plaintiff couples in the Tanco v. Haslam case, which was decided as a part of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. Speaking earlier this month about HJR 0529, they stated,

“When Ijpe and I were stationed in Tennessee, we weren’t sure what kind of a welcome we would receive. We were quick to learn that Tennesseans have a long tradition of recognizing that a marriage, valid where celebrated, is valid everywhere. As marriage plaintiffs, Ijpe and I knew we were supported by countless of Tennesseans who respected our marriage and understood that we were not much different than any other loving couple deserving of protection under the law. We feel this resolution is in direct contradiction to the warm welcome we received while living in Tennessee, and are saddened that a small minority are so willing to undo the loving support of so many Tennesseans.”

HRC is currently tracking 25 active bills in Tennessee that could be used to restrict or eliminate the rights of LGBT people in The Volunteer State, including HB 2414, which is scheduled for a hearing on March 8 and seeks to prevent transgender students from accessing restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. The anti-equality legislation advancing in Tennessee is part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country.

To date, HRC is tracking nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills in 32 states. These range from legislation attempting to undermine marriage equality; proposals aimed to authorize individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people; bills seeking to restrict or criminalize transgender people who use restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity; and even legislation aimed at eliminating the ability of local governments to protect LGBT residents and visitors. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/2016legislature.

Ryan Wilson

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