On January 21st, David Fowler, on behalf of the Constitutional Government Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit in Williamson County, Tenn., challenging the Supreme Court same-sex “marriage” ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges. Then, on February 4, 2016, a second lawsuit was filed in Bradley County, Tenn.

On April 29, 2016, the Constitutional Government Defense Fund filed its response to Motions to Dismiss filed by the County Clerk Defendants in both Williamson County and Bradley County:

Video of Press Conference Explaining the Lawsuit Filed in Williamson County, Tenn. – January 21, 2016

If you can’t watch the video in the above embedded video window, you can watch the clip from the press conference at Legislative Plaza, Nashville, TN here: https://youtu.be/ThYlQ-T9YnM.

Summary of the Lawsuit

This proposal to challenge Obergefell will:

  • keep local officials from being sued in federal court and hauled off to jail for contempt for not obeying a federal court order,
  • allow us to fight the really important legal issue—the lawfulness and constitutionality of Obergefell—in state court, where there is some measure of judicial accountability, rather than federal court,
  • allow attorneys of our choosing to argue over the effect of Obergefell,
  • eliminate the risk that the Attorney General will refuse to defend legislation,
  • eliminate the risk of the Governor vetoing the legislation or choosing not to “enforce” any legislation.

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Flowchart Representation of the Lawsuit

Here’s a quick way to understand what we are doing through the lawsuit challenging the Obergefell marriage ruling:



Download a printable copy of the flowchart.

Frequently Asked Question About the Lawsuit

  • Didn’t the Supreme Court already decide that our marriage license law was invalid?
  • Aren’t you saying that a state court decision can “trump” a Supreme Court decision?
  • Is this lawsuit like the one the Alabama Supreme Court has before it and, under which the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court recently ordered their state officials to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples?

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More Videos Explaining the Lawsuit

The Lawsuit Challenging the Obergefell Marriage Ruling Explained from Family Action Council Tennessee on Vimeo.

Three Observations About Lawsuits Applied to the Obergefell Ruling from Family Action Council Tennessee on Vimeo.


The Obergefell Court’s Two Holdings from Family Action Council Tennessee on Vimeo.

TN Marriage Laws and County Clerks from Family Action Council Tennessee on Vimeo.

Understanding the Tennessee ‘Marriage Lawsuits’

On January 21st a number of ministers and concerned citizens filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of Williamson County over a purely legal issue resulting from the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage June 26, 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges. David Fowler, on behalf of the Constitutional Government Defense Fund, represents them.

Then, on February 4, 2016, a second lawsuit was filed in Bradley County, Tenn.

The legal question is really very straightforward: If Tennessee’s current marriage license law, passed in 1995, is unconstitutional, which is what the Obergefell Court ruled, then who passed the new law to replace the old one? Courts can’t pass laws, and the legislature has not passed a new law since last June, so it stands to reason that there is no marriage licensure law in Tennessee.

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Who Can Challenge Obergefell?

There are only two governmental entities that can challenge the Obergefell ruling, (i) the federal government and (ii) the state government.

Any decision to challenge Obergefell must take into account (i) the constitutional prerogatives of each of these governments and the constitutional prerogatives of each branch of government within those two governments and, just as importantly, (ii) the current “landscape” relative to how each of those branches of government will likely respond to an effort to resist Obergefell.

Failure to take into account both of these considerations will result in failure to effect change and protect the constitutional principles of federalism and separation of powers that are now at risk in future matters important to the state and its citizens as a result of Obergefell.

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To learn what you can do to support the lawsuit and other efforts to challenge the Obergefell ruling, go to the Reclaiming Our Liberty main page. Read the PDF of the Lawsuit that was filed on January 21, 2016.