Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Marriage: The More You Ignore Me the Closer I Get

Some interesting marriage equality news has just come out. A Texas judge ruled today in a "gay divorce" case that the state's marriage ban is unconstitutional because it violates equal protection. The state attorney general has already said he'll appeal. No surprise there. What is surprising is that the judge made this ruling despite the fact that Texas not only has a statute defining marriage but a state constitutional amendment as well. Just like Tennessee.

Miles to the North in Illinois, a marriage bill has been introduced just months after the state had been looking at civil unions.

So what's the point for Tennessee? Both states are closer to Tennessee than any of the others that are on a path towards marriage equality. And I guess that's the other point--both states are now on some kind of path to marriage equality. In Illinois, it's going to be a legislative solution. In Texas, it could be a judicial solution. And even if the series of cases don't result in marriage, they could reignite a marriage equality movement there. Tennessee's path is more likely to be like Texas once it finally begins. Since we've just passed our first employment protections at the local level this year, it's unlikely that we'll move significantly on relationship recognition soon. But we need to be open to that kind of surprise, too. Perhaps one of our cities will adopt a domestic partner registry.

If more states closer to Tennessee adopt either marriage or civil unions, it will be harder to ignore the need for some reforms to family law. Tennessee couples have already gone to Massachusetts, Canada, and California to get married. If Memphians can go to Dallas, Nashvillians to Chicago, and Knoxvillians to Asheville (North Carolina or Virginia is likely to be the first Southern state to make a significant move on same-sex unions), then we're going to have a lot of cases related to divorce, inheritance, etc. in Tennessee courts that call for a policy remedy.

It's coming closer and we will not be able to predict what brings it to our borders and when. Perhaps some gubernatorial candidate will meet the new development at the state line. But even he can't hold it at bay forever.

No comments: