Tennessee legislators send marriage issue to voters

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With a vote of 88-7 the Tennessee House approved a resolution defining marriage between a man and a woman and will seek a constitutional amendment from Tennessee voters in November 2006.

The Tennessee Senate had approved the measure 29-3 last month. Tennessee law currently prohibits marriage between same-sex couples and defines it as between a man and woman, but sponsors of the bill told fellow legislators they were concerned judges would overturn that law (even though no challenge had been made to the law).

Legal challenges may not be far behind if voters see fit to approve the constitutional amendment. Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee said her organization may take legal action.

"ACLU-TN is committed to challenging the constitutional amendment denying gay men and lesbians the right to marry,” Weinberg said. “ACLU-TN’s mission is to protect and promote the constitutional guarantees outlined in the Tennessee State Constitution and the United States Constitution, and we will pursue litigation on that basis."

A local Democratic group expressed its disappointment with the passage of the bil.

"Greater Nashville Lambda Democrats is highly disappointed in the legislators that voted for the marriage amendment. The issue of same sex marriage is already covered by statute and has been addressed by the TN Supreme Court. Legislators wasted time and money by on this amendment, that at the end of the day, changes nothing in the state of Tennessee," said Jennifer Nash, president of Greater Nashville Lambda Democrats. "Legislators are elected to represent their constituents in the process of running the state government, which includes health care, education, and other state department and agency issues. The amendment issue only furthers the Republicans agenda to gain more control over state government."

Nash said she wasn’t sure how her group would approach the voters but that "GNLD is currently studying its role in keeping the amendment from passing by popular vote in November 2006."