Tennessee considers constitutional gay marriage ban
February 17 2005 1:00 AM ET
A proposed constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples in Tennessee has started moving forward again, against only a few voices of dissent. The house children and family affairs committee approved the legislation 13-4 on Wednesday, one day after the same measure was approved by the senate judiciary committee. Tennessee law already defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, but Republicans say they are trying to prevent courts from allowing gay marriages in other states from being recognized in Tennessee.
The legislature approved the ban last session by a simple majority and now needs a two-thirds majority this session before the question can be put to voters on a gubernatorial ballot. Most lawmakers expect the gay marriage ban to win the required support. "I'm very optimistic," said Republican senator Jeff Miller of Cleveland, the bill's sponsor.
Rep. John DeBerry, a Memphis Democrat who is chairman of the children and family affairs committee, said he's not surprised by how quickly the legislation is moving along. "I think it's going the way it's going because we've already heard the voices of the people," DeBerry said. "We got a chance to really debate this issue last year and get everything out of our systems. Now everybody knows where they
stand and where the other man stands."
Democratic senator Joe Haynes of Goodlettsville voted for the ban last year but opposed it in the judiciary committee this year. He was joined by another Democrat, Sen. Steve Cohen of Memphis. "We have already outlawed gay marriage in Tennessee, and this is overkill," Haynes said. Senate speaker pro tem Micheal Williams, a Maynardville Republican, said he feels the bill has a good shot at passage if it's debated in both the house and senate. "I'm sure it will take a while to work its way through," Williams said. "But
ultimately, if it comes to a floor vote, I would think that it would pass."
Hedy Weinberg, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said she's disappointed that the legislature is considering "writing discrimination into the state constitution." "My experience is that this state's public policy supports monogamous nurturing, loving relationships," Weinberg said. "And the goal of this constitutional amendment is to ban same-sex marriage. We're talking about marriage equality, and we would hope that Tennesseans across the state would support marriage equality for all people." (AP)