NASHVILLE — While a group of Republican state legislators is still studying what, if any, action lawmakers should take to oppose a U.S. Supreme Court decision authorizing gay marriage, state Rep. Rick Womick has proposed a new option: Eliminate state marriage licenses completely.
Womick, R-Rockvale, an ardent critic of the court's ruling, told the Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro that Tennessee should revert to being a common-law state on marriage and stop issuing licenses for couples to wed.
"That would take the state out of the marriage business altogether," Womick said. "I think that's probably the best approach given the legal climate."
State Attorney General Herbert Slatery has declared Tennessee is bound to abide by the high court's decision despite a provision in Tennessee's constitution that says marriage can only involve one man and one woman. Womick previously suggested Gov. Bill Haslam should be impeached for not fighting the ruling and urged county court clerks not to issue licenses to gay couples.
"If the Supreme Court will not allow us as a sovereign state to issue marriage licenses as we have decided, then we won't issue them at all," Womick said. "If [the deciding five members of the Supreme Court] want to play this game, we are not going to abide by what they said.facebook
"The Supreme Court is not going to force the state of Tennessee to issue same-sex marriage licenses. We'll just stop issuing marriage licenses period. You can't force us to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or to men or women."
House Speaker Beth Harwell has appointed a task force to review possible legislative action on gay marriage. Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, a member of the panel, told the newspaper there have been several meetings and at least one more is planned, but nothing has been decided.
"I can't tell you what's going to happen because I don't know what's going to happen. I have no idea on which way it's heading."
POST recommends sex-crimes model policy
The state's Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission has recommended a model policy on sexually-oriented crimes that all law enforcement agencies are expected to adopt locally by July 1.
"Having a statewide policy will provide greater efficiency and consistent oversight for the investigations of sexual assaults in our state," POST Commission Executive Secretary Brian Grisham said in a news release. "All state and local law enforcement agencies that are likely to encounter reports of sexually oriented crimes, including campus police forces, are required to establish these standards."
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said in a separate statement that the POST move is "a major step forward" that, in conjunction with an ongoing effort to process a backlog of rape evidence kits, ensure that officers use the best methodology in investigations and thus "encourage more survivors to come forward and report the crime in the renewed hope that the perpetrator will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."