Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Next Month, A Special Election Gives The Democrats Another Opportunity Pick Up A Seat In The Tennessee State Senate


Over the weekend, Natalie Allison reported for The Tennessean about the new effort by Republicans in the state legislature to outlaw same sex marriage... again. State Senator Mark Pody (Lebanon) and Rep. Jerry Sexton (Bean Station) have reintroduced the "Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act," having seen it defeated in committee last session and despite the $9 billion in federal funding it would cost the state. They claim that the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage "is void in Tennessee because the state has already passed its own law and constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman."
The bill would prohibit government officials-- presumably including clerks issuing marriage certificates-- from giving recognizing any court ruling that affirms same-sex unions, and specifies they cannot be arrested for failing to comply with court orders that do so.

It would also require the Tennessee attorney general to defend the state's law on marriage in any subsequent court challenge.

In the event the marriage defense act did take effect, plaintiffs would likely quickly step immediately to challenge it in court, which could result in a federal district court ruling that the law cannot be enforced.

The statute appears to require the state to appeal such a ruling and defend the law, potentially taking the case to the 6th circuit federal appeals court. From there, it could go ultimately advance to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The far right’s dream scenario is this would go back before the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court would accept it," said Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, an LGBTQ rights advocacy group that has previously opposed the bill.
Extremists in the state legislature can pretty much do whatever they like. The governor is a Republican and each house of the legislature has a GOP super-majority. 73.7% of voters picked a Republican and there are 73 Republicans in the state House, as opposed to 26 for the Democrats (a gain for the Dems of one member since 2016) On the senate side, 84.4% of Tennesseans voted for Republicans and the party has 26 seats (+ an independent caucusing with them) to the Democrats' 5 seats (also a one seat gain for the Dems).

Exactly one month from today-- March 12-- the Democrats have a shot at picking up another state Senate seat. Republican businessman Paul Rose and Democrat Eric Coleman are running for a seat that long-time legislator Mark Norris gave up when Trump appointed him to the federal bench. The district, north of Memphis leans heavily red. It includes rural Tipton County and Republican-leaning suburbs of Shelby County. Coleman was very clear where he stands on the marriage equality issue: "We need not find more reasons to separate and divide, and certainly not shift abruptly backward."

Coleman, a former USPS letter carrier, retired from the Navy last year and lives in Bartlett, northeast of Memphis in Shelby County. He told me he's running on a three-pronged plank that he calls his three foundational focuses:
1. A healthier citizenry: We must combat food insecurity as all Tennesseans have the basic human right to eat. No new taxes or fancy gimmick policies are necessary, merely a realignment of existing revenues and shifting of priorities (i.e. a 100% audit of expense accounts, discretionary funds, fuel cards, etc.). The state must embrace Medicaid Expansion to allow low-income citizens to shop for and purchase private insurance with Medicaid funds, increasing reimbursement rates to a 100% match. There must be an urgent push for more primary care providers by effectively employing our state’s nurses in community health centers and mobile care initiatives.

2. An informed citizenry: There is an undeniable need to shore up the educational structure-- folks and facilities. There must be a robust recruitment effort to hire teachers who want to work in our schools and budget space carved out to pay them competitive salaries so they can focus on teaching instead of other distractions like resource shortages or unsafe and outdated facilities.

3. A safer citizenry: We have a dire need to create a strong bond between police and the communities they serve through active civic cooperation and community-oriented policing. We cannot become complacent and believe that we’re exempt from the potential for controversy. Safe, responsible use of firearms for self-defense coupled with common sense legislation will help us develop the type of society where neither sportsmen and women nor gun enthusiasts feel infringed upon, yet equally average citizens don’t fear each other or the irresponsibly insecure state of some personal arsenals. My questions remain static-- if these weapons are tactical and manufactured for tactical application, what makes them practical and what tactics are you practicing? In the extreme cases where hostages are taken, explosives used, etc. we should explore the expanded employment of drones/robotics to preserve as much life as possible. Just as we spent decades developing the use of canines for law enforcement, we can invest much less time and effort finding more logical interfaces for technology to abate the loss of human life.
Endorsed by Our Revolution and VoteVets, you can read more about Eric here and you can contribute to his campaign here.

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