County Clerks Warned About ‘Void and Unenforceable’ Marriage Licenses

Jan 3, 2020

copy of the first page of the letter to TN county clerks and an image of a husband and wife's wedded hands
On January 2, the Constitutional Government Defense Fund, a division of Alliance for Law and Liberty, sent a letter to County Technical Advisory Service, County Officials Association in Tennessee, and all 95 county clerks in Tennessee advising them that the marriage licenses they are issuing to two people of the same sex are “void and unenforceable” under provisions of Tennessee’s Constitution that the federal court did not enjoin.

The letter corresponds to and complements a de facto “lawsuit” CGDF filed on December 19, 2019, with the Tennessee Department of Health on behalf of hundreds of ministers in Tennessee over a same-sex type Certificate of Marriage that Department is issuing.

The letter and the “lawsuit” note that, after the Supreme Court’s marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the federal court having jurisdiction over the marriage lawsuit filed against then-Governor Haslam did not enjoin enforcement of this provision in Tennessee’s Constitution: “Any policy or law or judicial interpretation, purporting to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one man and one woman, is contrary to the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable in Tennessee.”

The letter to the county clerks acknowledges that they “are issuing licenses for marital contracts [between same-sex couples] in reliance on Attorney General’s advice,” but encloses for them the pleading filed by Attorney General Herbert Slatery that shows the federal court’s decision not to enjoin this provision was “at the urging of the Attorney General & Reporter.”

For Further Reading

Letter to the TN County Clerks

Enclosure 1: Petition of Declaratory Order, Tn Dept. of Health

Enclosure 2: Tanco v. Haslam Final Order

Enclosure 3: AG’s Reply to Plaintiffs Proposed Order

Enclosure 4: CTAS Memo Replying to the AG

Enclosure 5: AG Opinion 84-157
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