A minor Tennessee court ruling causes confusion

Last week, Circuit Court Judge Russell Simmons ruled that Tennessee could not recognize the marriage of Frederick Michael Borman and Larry Kevin Pyles-Borman – who married in Iowa – because Tennessee law states that those marriages are “void and unenforceable” in Tennessee. Borman and Pyles-Borman, you'll recall, would like to dissolve their union in Tennessee.

And, because it’s not news until it’s on the Internet, nobody really knew about it until yesterday when the ruling was posted online (a PDF link, via Washington Blade).

As Betsy Phillips pointed out earlier today at Pith in the Wind, Judge Simmons “has no means to grant a legal divorce to a non-legal marriage. And he doesn't think that the U.S. Supreme Court has, as of yet, given him the legal path he would need to do so.”

That sort of reasoning didn’t stop Slate from opening with this headline: “Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage Ban as Constitutional in Startling Reversal of Pro-Gay Trend.”

And it didn’t stop The New Civil Rights Movement (NCRM) from just throwing this one out there: “Court Rules Tennessee's Same-Sex Marriage Ban Is Constitutional.”

Though NCRM included the following statement from Judge Simmons in its article:

“Marriage simply cannot be divorced from its traditional procreative purposes... the promotion of family continuity and stability is certainly a legitimate state interest. There is nothing irrational about limiting the institution of marriage for the purpose for which it was created, by embracing its traditional definition. To conclude otherwise is to impose one’s own view of what a State ought to do on the subject of same-sex marriage."

it doesn’t follow it with Simmons’ further statement, paraphrased by Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog …

the Tennessee judge responded that the issue should more properly be raised in an appellate court with broader authority than that of a trial judge.

So rest assured, all, nothing terribly unexpected happened in that courtroom last week, and we’re still waiting on the Sixth Circuit ruling.





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