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VOL. 37 | NO. 25 | Friday, June 21, 2013

Reaction mixed in Tennessee concerning gay marriage ruling

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A Nashville attorney who married her wife a year ago in Washington, D.C., said she is thrilled with the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act.

Julia Tate watched coverage of the court with Lisa McMillan on Wednesday morning at their home and said everyone should have equality.

"Everyone should be treated the same on the federal level," Tate said. "On the state level, we still have work to do."

Voters in a 2006 referendum passed the Tennessee Marriage Protection Amendment, which specifies only a marriage between a man and a woman can be legally recognized in the state. It was approved by 81 percent of the voters in that election.

Asked whether she were disappointed the court did not go further in its ruling that the federal government must provide benefits to gay couples in states where same-sex marriage is legal, Tate didn't fault the justices.

"I think it's probably wise to be cautiou s," she said. "Our courts ought to follow us, not lead."

In a separate ruling, the court threw out California's ban on same-sex marriages.

Russell Moore, president of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he was not surprised by the court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, per se, but he was surprised by the "sweeping language" used by the majority.

"It grounds the decision in equal protection and uses language of human dignity that has far-reaching implications," he said. "...Ultimately it's headed toward challenging the way states define marriage."

Asked about the Southern Baptist Convention's views on marriage, Moore said, "We believe marriage wasn't designed by a government bureaucracy. ...It's pre-political, designed by God and embedded in nature."

State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, who is running for Congress, also was troubled by the ruling, saying the nation was built on wh at he called the traditional family.

"There are detrimental forces in our culture that reject or do not recognize the importance of the traditional family unit in our society and those forces won today," Tracy said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said he was pleased by both rulings.

"Equality under the law should apply to all Americans, and now we're one step closer toward fulfilling this promise," Cooper said.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said DOMA was the last federal law on the books that mandated discrimination by the federal government because of sexual orientation.

"Today marks the beginning of the end of official discrimination against lesbians and gay men and an important step forward in achieving equality for all Tennesseans," Weinberg said.