Tennessee Forging Ahead

24 02 2006

Go Tennessee! (I’m so proud)

A Davidson County, TN, judge yesterday cleared the way for voters to decide in November whether the Tennessee Constitution should be amended to ban gay marriage and has the ACLU whining about a rule being broken.

Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that challenged the way the state legislature adopted the proposed amendment. The ACLU yesterday vowed to fight on.

But they don’t have a foot to stand on because Lyle based his decision on technical issues, not moral.

The judge was not asked to decide the rightness or wrongness of same-sex marriage but rather whether the public was given enough time for opponents to launch a serious campaign against the proposed amendment.

Tennessee law says that a proposed amendment “shall be published six months previous” to the next election of the General Assembly. For the amendment to take effect, back-to-back General Assemblies in two years would have to pass it. The notification period allows voters to be informed about the amendment so they can vote on candidates who will serve in the next legislature.

The ACLU and gay and lesbian groups said voters weren’t given that chance as required by law. They argued that the secretary of state didn’t officially publish notice of the amendment until 4½ months before the next election.

Lawyers at the attorney general’s office and a coalition of conservative legal groups argued that the public had plenty of notice because the amendment was widely publicized by the media. Lyle agreed. In her decision, she noted that the law didn’t specify the nature of the notification.

The judge also said in her ruling that the ACLU had not met the extraordinary criterion for a court to step in and take a proposed amendment off the ballot.

Same-sex marriages are already illegal in my great state of Tennessee, but we do want to vote to amend the constitution to cement that in for good…and to watch the ACLU squrim.

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