Christian conservative leader has legislators scuttle bill banning child marriage

A bill aimed at banning “child brides” in Tennessee is dead for the year after a former state senator and conservative activist asked it be delayed for fear it might interfere with his legal challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling on same-sex marriage, reports the Times Free Press.

Members of the Republican-led House Civil Justice Subcommittee moved the bill Wednesday to summer study, effectively killing for the year the legislation by Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Nashville, that seeks to make marriage illegal for anyone under the age of 18.

House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, later acknowledged he acted at the request of former state Sen. David Fowler, R-Signal Mountain, an attorney who is now head of the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

Jernigan was furious over the action. It was one of two Democratic bills delayed at the request of Casada by the panel, chaired by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah. The other was an unrelated bill banning bump stocks, devices used to make semi-automatic rifles operate as if they are fully automatic. That was delayed until the panel’s last meeting.

The debate over the marriage bill entered a hallway as Jernigan confronted Fowler for an explanation to his opposition to a bill intended to do away with a law that The Tennessean reported has resulted in at least three girls aged 10 getting married.

“So we’re going to allow 13-year-olds to continue to marry because of the same-sex issue?” Jernigan asked of Fowler.

Said Fowler: “No, because there’s a legal issue related to the whole issue of (marriage) licensing.”

A Tennessee Star story provides more detail on Fowler’s stance. An excerpt:

David Fowler, President of the Family Action Council of TN (FACTN) says that amending Tennessee’s marriage license laws in any way, arguably supports the Attorney General’s position opposing the suit filed by FACTN’s Constitutional Government Defense Fund (CGDF) challenging the Obergefell decision’s effect on the state’s marriage license laws. It is the only case of its type pending in any U.S. court.

In that case the Attorney General argued that “As the General Assembly…has declined to repeal [the male-female language requirement] post-Obergefell, it is evident that the General Assembly does not intend the entire marriage-licensing scheme should be invalidated in the wake of Obergefell.”

Serving as counsel of record for the CDGF, Fowler filed two lawsuits related to the ruling in  Obergefell.  The suit filed in Williamson County was dismissed, but the suit filed in Bradley County is moving forward.

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