Lawmakers decry Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal

Published 9:08 am Saturday, June 27, 2015

Reactions to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning all state bans on same-sex marriage were mixed across the state and locally Friday.
Tennesseeans had previously voted to approve an amendment to the state constitution that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. That constitutional amendment as well as similar laws passed in other states came under fire and court challenges. Many of the cases were combined into a single case before the Supreme Court.
After Friday’s ruling, several state officials issued public statements on the historic decision.
“The people of Tennessee have recently voted clearly on this issue,” Gov. Bill Haslam said. “The Supreme Court has overturned that vote. We will comply with the decision and will ensure that our departments are able to do so as quickly as possible.”
While Haslam was brief in his statement, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, whose senatorial district includes part of Carter County, expressed a more personal opinion on the issue.
“The Supreme Court today issued an unfortunate and fundamentally wrong opinion,” he said. “In 2006, not even a decade ago, over 80 percent of Tennessee voters issued a strong mandate in favor of traditional marriage. Today, the Supreme Court declared that mandate null and void.”
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III also took issue with the Supreme Court issuing a ruling that overturned decisions made by the individual states.
“Today’s United States Supreme Court decision not only changes the definition of marriage, but takes from the states and their citizens the longstanding authority to vote and decide what marriage means,” Slatery said. “To the Tennessee citizen who asks ‘Don’t we get a chance to vote on this in some way?’ the answer from the Supreme Court is a resounding, ‘No, you do not.’ ”
“For the Court to tell all Tennesseans that they have no voice, no right to vote, on these issues is disappointing,” he added. “The Court, nevertheless, has spoken and we respect its decision. Our office is prepared to work with the Governor and the General Assembly, as needed, to take the necessary steps to implement the decision.”
State legislators have already responded the ruling with plans to draft new legislation.
Tennessee State Representative Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) announced that he is working to draft the “Tennessee Pastor Protection Act” along with State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) as the primary co-sponsor.
“It comes as no surprise that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage. I have had multiple constituents concerned with how the ruling may impact their church and their religious beliefs. If the issue is truly about equality of civil liberties and benefits, then this ruling should have minimal legal impact on churches,” said Terry. “However, if the issue and the cause is about redefining marriage to require others to change their deeply held religious beliefs, then the concerns of many will be valid.”
The bill will be designed to protect all religious clergy from performing same sex marriages, as well as providing legal protection from being forced to perform same sex marriages on church property.
Locally, the Elizabethton Star contacted local ministers to get their reaction on the court’s decision.
“A declaration by the Supreme Court does not change morality of teaching of Scripture,” said Todd Hallman, pastor of First Baptist Church.
After speaking the Star, Hallman posted the following statement to his Facebook page:
“So we are faced with a choice as we always are: 1. We will choose to change our view concerning gay marriage and thus embrace the cultural trend. 2. We will choose to speak out vehemently against gay marriage, spouting God’s wrath and judgment against the homosexual lifestyle and thus widen the gap between the gospel that we say we embody, the Christ that we say that we serve and the lostness/brokenness that lies all around. 3. We will recognize that a broken world is filled with broken people, and broken leaders will make decisions that will continue a trajectory of brokenness; therefore we will welcome the brokenness and the broken-hearted into our broken circle in order that those who have often been castaways can have a greater opportunity to experience God’s amazing love, grace and power offered through Christ alone.
I would submit that the third option is the only option for the follower of Christ. It demonstrates the power of God’s love and conveys the absolute truth of the Gospel — namely that love wins!”
Dr. Bill Lindeman, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, had a different reaction to the ruling.
“I am filled with great joy today because discrimination in marriage is no longer the rule of law,” he said. “So many have waited for so long to have the very same rights that the rest of us enjoy and often take for granted. At the same time, we who are celebrating have to celebrate with humility and compassion, remembering that many are not rejoicing today. We still have a hurting and broken world in need of healing. That healing begins with us as we are brave enough to refuse to demonize those who are different, regardless of the issue.”

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