Lawsuit challenging same-sex marriage dismissed in Bradley County

Former Sen. David Fowler (R-Signal Mountain), right, speaks to Rep. Darren Jernigan (D-Nashville) on March 7, 2018.

Different court, same result. A judge in Bradley County has dismissed a lawsuit filed by former state Sen. David Fowler, the head of the state chapter of the Family Action Council, seeking to challenge same-sex marriage licenses in Tennessee, the Cleveland Banner reports.

The case was filed on behalf of the Rev. Guinn E. Green, pastor of the Kinser Church of God, and Bradley County Commissioner Howard Thompson against County Clerk Donna Simpson for issuing the marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The lawsuit claimed the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling had essentially voided Tennessee’s marriage laws, which define that union as being only being being a man and a woman.

In his ruling late last week, Circuit Court Judge Michael Pemberton noted a similar case, Grant et. al. v.  Elaine Anderson, was decided by the Tennessee Court of Appeals in May 2018. It found the petitioners did not have standing to bring the case.

“Given the identical nature in each case,” Pemberton said, he was “constrained to follow the law set down by the Court of Appeals.”

The plaintiffs in that case wanted “a declaration that those provisions of the Tennessee law relative to the licensing of marriages are no longer valid and enforceable” as a result of the Obergefell decision. They argued they had been “deprived of their right to ‘indirectly vote’ on the laws prescribing the duties of the county clerk.”

But the court noted in its 3-0 decision that nobody had been deprived of their marriage licenses.

“Instead, they complain of the issuance of marriage license to others,” the opinion stated.


Simpson attorney James F. Logan Jr., told the Cleveland Banner he hopes the decision will bring the matter to a close.

“It has cost the county thousands of dollars,” according to Logan, who said his firm has billed the county for tens of thousands of dollars in legal work related to the case.

“Donna Simpson was performing her duties as required by the State of Tennessee and the various departments of state government including public health, the Bureau of Vital Statistics and the state attorney general,” Logan said.

Fowler hasn’t ruled out pursuing an appeal.

“We have 30 days to decide what we are going to do,” Fowler told the Banner. “We will be discussing the steps we can take under the rules of civil procedure or appeal.”

But County Commissioner Howard Thompson told the newspaper he may longer abandon the case against the county clerk.

“It’s costing the county money,” Thompson said. “I don’t think prolonging it would be doing the right thing.”

29 Responses to Lawsuit challenging same-sex marriage dismissed in Bradley County

  • Terry Christian says:

    Apparently Fowler is unable to read. The Obergefell decision did not void Tennessee’s or any state’s marriage laws.
    It simply stated that each state’s marriage laws cannot contradict the U.S. Constitution, namely the 14th Amendment. Marriage laws that comply with the 14th remain completely in effect.

  • Perry Aubric says:

    Sorry, James, just your saying so don’t make it so. Equal protection is indeed a provision of the constitution, and the SupremeCourt (which knows more about its jurisdiction than you possibly could) has ruled same sex marriage is legal and protected in this nation.

    Anti-gay bigots masquerading as Christians like Fowler need to mind their own business. What possible harm is there to him or this church if some gay couples are married? The church is not obligated to perform marriages, accept gays as members, or even “recognize” a marriage as valid. They can believe or do as they want, and take in all the tax-exempt money they can. But valid same sex marriages are, as little as you might like it. As if it affected you, or them, at all.

    • MarLE says:

      So Perry……..A lot of this interest in marriage comes from the Special survivor benefits afforded to a spouse. If the federal government cannot prohibit marriage between 2 gays then why does it prohibit it between siblings, parents who would probably love the survivor benefits as well. Why should the 14th Amendment protection for marriage be denied to them?

      • Perry Aubric says:

        MarLE, first of all, you demean and diminish people who are in love and want to et married (if they are gay) to suggest that “a lot of interest” is designed to get insurance benefits. I suggest that gay people et married for the same reasons straight people do–because they love each other and want to be together for a llifetime. Fortunately, no one has to present himself or herself to MarLE to get clearance for their reason for getting married.

        Just as the unconstitutional anti-mixed race marriage laws were based on race or color, the unconstitutional anti-gay marriage laws were based on gender. You as a man couldn’t marry another man only because of his sex; you as a woman couldn’t marry another woman only because of her sex. That’s discriminatory on its face, and it violates the equal protection laws. Society has no demonstrable interest in upholding such discriminatory bans, other I suppose than to pander to someone’s religious-based bigotry. Which violates the First Amendment ban on establishing a religion.

        Anti-incest laws are based on familial relationship. Anti-polygamy laws are based on the number of people in a marriage. Anti-child marriage laws are based on age. These laws, which vary from state to state (except polygamy) were not affected by the gay marriage ruling. You can argue whether or not there is an interest in society in maintaining those bans. I personally think there is. But that has nothing to do with the same-sex marriage ruling.

        • MarLE says:

          Lots of people marry for lots of reasons. Susie Orman, the financial guru, did an entire show about her desire to marry her long-term partner so that she, like others could inherit estate-tax free. So…if 2 lesbians can have that in mind and be protected by the 14th Amendment why not a 90 yr old Father and 70 yr old Daughter? Marriage, in NONE of our 50 states is required to have any sexual component at all. NONE.

          • MarLE says:

            And Perry… ask your tiresome question. How does marriage between a 90 yr old father and his 70 yr old daughter Hurt YOU? What is your answer?

      • EvieD says:

        Wow. What a dumb question. It’s about loving someone and expecting to have the same rights as people that are straight.

        • MarLE says:

          Evie, since you mentioned dumb (why can’t people just post their IDEAS without attacking others. Something I see Liberals do an awful lot)……..since no where in any state is marriage being in love mentioned as a requirement then it is “dumb” to insert that only 2 people romantically in love should be able to marry.

          Contact your local state rep to see if they will draft such a bill that makes Romantic Love a requirement here in Tennessee. Looking forward to your success with that.

    • James White says:

      The Supreme Court does not make law.

  • Eddie White says:

    Hmmm MarLE, I think you have asked a very interesting question. Perry, what about marriage between siblings, or a man who wants to have multiple wives? On a related matter, I love when the liberals on the op-ed pages such as The Tennessean lecture us about abiding by the will of the voters, especially the will of the Nashville voters to develop their own community oversight board. But when 80% of the voters in Tennessee voted to amend our constitution to provide marriage as between one man and one woman, those voters are considered ignorant and subject to the rule of the Supreme Court.

    • MarLE says:

      Multiple wives could still be limited to only one official survivor of, let’s say SS benefits. Did you know that after only 9 mo of marriage, a surviving widow gets her husbands entire SS benefit rather than her own? Should they roll back the estate 11M threshold to the 1M it was in the Bush W era, a spouse does not have ANY limit on inheritance amounts? So……..marriage between siblings or to an aging parent or grandparent Could Be Very Beneficial. If it is acceptable for gays, why not for others who want to enter into a financially and emotionally care-taking marriage.

    • Perry Aubric says:

      See above, Eddie. These hysterical over-the-top false equivalencies with incest, polygamy and child marriage are tiresome, asinine, irrelevant, sophomoric and flat-out ridiculous.

      The will of the voters once was for forced segregation, and the will of the voters may even now be for discrimination against gays. But when the will of the voters is unconstitutional, it cannot be allowed to substitute for constitutional protections.

      I hardly think a societal prohibition on equal rights has equivalence to the establishment of a board about the police. Nice try on yet another of your red herrings.

      • MarLE says:

        Perry, you are sounding like the close-minded liberal you project right wingers to be. Are you kidding me? A father of age 90 marrying his 70 yr old daughter who is his round the clock care taker and companion is no more absurd than 2 men. Both, iIf they wish to formalize their bond with each other through marriage Why, as I asked before,do they not GET a 14th Amendment protection for their choice? Marriage is NOT in any of the 50 states required to be about sex, you know.

    • Bill Jomes says:

      They are ignorant. Look at the average IQ, meth heads, babies born out of wedlock. We, most Tennesseans are woefully ignorant…..

  • EvieD says:

    Marriage is about two people in love. Period. Why does same sex marriage threaten you? If it’s really about the sanctity of marriage, why aren’t you fighting to make divorce illegal?

    • MarLE says:

      Government sanction of marriage does not require 2 people to IN love. Find that in any of the 50 state requirements. What it does do it create a financial obligation between 2 people….that it Does Do in all 50 states,

      IF we have gay marriage then we should have marriage by any 2 people who agree to the financial obligations AND whose union poses no HARM to society or to anyone else.

      Either that or Get government out of the business of creating Benefits OR Consequences in the law (including tax law) based on marital Status.

      But gays, once they have secured rights for themselves, seem just as interested in selfishly denying them to others.

  • EvieD says:

    If your worried about a slippery slope, how about we remove the survivors benefit from everyone and just make it a non-issue?

  • Perry Aubric says:

    What absolute ridiculous nonsense you are blabbering. This is about gay marriage, not some one in a billion fantastic incestuous non-situation. And your idiotic scenario is indeed absurd. Gay marriage is not absurd. Stupid foolishness demands no response. And nice try at trying to co-opt the projection.

    Look, you are the bigot who wants to deny gay people the right to get married, enjoy a life together in equality, and benefit from the protections of our laws, not me. Your bigotry is shameful.

    • MarLE says:

      I am most certainly not a bigot. I want any 2 consenting adults, including gays and lesbians, who want to marry to be able to do so IF it creates no Harm to anyone else. I question by what morality or logic, or point of law, only 2 GAY people should have the right if others don’t.

      YOU are the unreasonable and absurd one here. I asked you, just as you asked James……what is the Harm to YOU or to society. And still, other than call names, you have offered no answer; because you have none.

  • Eddie White says:

    Perry, what gets old is liberals like you calling everyone who disagrees with your views a bigot. Your narrow views just indicted 80% of Tennessee voters as bigots. That dog don’t hunt.

    • MarLE says:

      So in 8 lines that rebutted nothing, answered nothing he managed to lace his Non-answer with the following:
      ridiculous nonsense idiotic scenario
      blabbering Stupid foolishness
      absurd shameful

      And of course the liberal favorite…… BIGOT

      And much as I have expressed the many issues I have with Trump and some conservative positions It is the Perry’s of the world who reinforce my Libertarian belief that his ilk would be worse, by far.

  • Erik Schelzig says:

    Folks, let’s try avoid name-calling in the comments. We try to maintain a light touch on comments, but it only works if every tries to keep it civil. Thanks!

  • Eddie White says:

    Could not agree with you more Erik. Some of us on the conservative side are getting tired of being called racist and bigots all the time.( see Tennessee Democratic chair).

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