Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam on Friday enacted a bill that critics say is an underhanded way of denying rights to same-sex couples by insisting on the “natural and ordinary meaning” of words in state statues.
The legislation, which was signed by the Republican governor despite pressure from civil liberty and gay-rights groups, requires words in Tennessee law be interpreted with their “natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language.” It did not explain, however, what that means.
Civil rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocates warned the law is meant to undermine the rights of same-sex couples in any statutes that include words like “husband,” “wife,” “mother” or “father.”
Neither of the two sponsoring lawmakers, Republican state Senator John Stevens and Republican state Representative Andrew Farmer, could be reached to comment.
However, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported Stevens said he proposed the measure partly to compel courts to side more closely with the dissenting opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized same-sex marriage.
Haslam said on Friday he believes the law will not change how courts interpret legal precedent.
“While I understand the concerns raised about this bill, the Obergefell decision is the law of the land, and this legislation does not change a principle relied upon by the courts for more than a century, mitigating the substantive impact of this legislation,” he said in a statement.
The Tennessee measure is one of more than 100 bills introduced in U.S. state legislatures this year that to curtail LGBT rights, said Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.
While public opinion polls and court rulings have shifted in favor of same-sex rights in recent years, there is ongoing pushback from the 2015 ruling, Oakley said.
Last month, a Kentucky family court judge made headlines by issuing an order stating he would not hear adoption cases involving same-sex couples due to personal objections. That echoed Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis’ 2015 refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses because it violated her religious beliefs.
Gay-rights groups previously warned the law could create an economic backlash against Tennessee similar to that suffered by North Carolina, where a law requiring students use the restroom of the gender on their birth certificates led sports organizations and musicians to cancel events.
(Reporting by Chris Kenning in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
Trump delivers dangerously false medical claim: Children are ‘virtually immune’ from coronavirus — which is ‘going away’
President Donald Trump is making dangerously false medical claims once again, this time to advance his agenda of forcing the nation's schools to re-open despite the coronavirus pandemic, which is growing worse in many parts of the country.
On "Fox & Friends" Wednesday morning Trump said that children are "virtually immune" from contracting the coronavirus, which is false.
"It doesn't have an impact on them," Trump told the Fox News morning team. "And I've watched some doctors say they're 'totally immune,' I don't know I hate to use the word 'totally,' the news will say, 'Oh, he made the word totally and he shouldn't have used that word.' But the fact is they are virtually immune from this problem, and we have to open our schools."
How gene editing a person’s brain cells could be used to curb the opioid epidemic
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic cripples the economy and kills hundreds of people each day, there is another epidemic that continues to kill tens of thousands of people each year through opioid drug overdose.
Opioid analgesic drugs, like morphine and oxycodone, are the classic double-edged swords. They are the very best drugs to stop severe pain but also the class of drugs most likely to kill the person taking them.In a recent journal article, I outlined how a combination of state-of-the-art molecular techniques, such as CRISPR gene editing and brain microinjection methods, could be used to blunt one edge of the sword and make opioid drugs safer.
Historian who predicted Trump’s upset 2016 win now says he’s going to crash and burn in 2020
Allan Lichtman, a political historian who teaches at American University in Washington, D.C., became famous for correctly predicting President Donald Trump's upset win four years ago.
But in a new interview with The New York Times, Lichtman makes the case that Trump appears very unlikely to win a second term as the country has been racked for months by the coronavirus pandemic, high unemployment, and civil unrest.