Last edited: June 20, 2004

Tennessee County that Voted to Bar Gays Seeks New Antigay Resolution

The Advocate, June 15, 2004

Rhea County, Tenn., commissioners are taking their time with a second attempt at a resolution supporting Tennessee’s ban on same-sex marriage. A fumbled attempt earlier this year led to a vote barring gays altogether and threatening them with arrest for “crimes against nature.” That measure was quickly withdrawn but not before national attention brought protests and cries of outrage from many gay rights activists. The commissioners are now working up a resolution that would specify support for the state’s ban on gay marriage. The resolution was originally on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting but is instead headed for a workshop to make sure it says what commissioners want it to say. “After the last incident, we don’t want to put anything hastily on the agenda,” commissioner Dennis Tumlin said. Tumlin, who worked on the resolution with county attorney Gary Fritts, said he plans to bring the resolution to the July workshop for more discussion.

The resolution Tumlin is presenting would urge legislators to uphold Tennessee’s definition of marriage as being a union between one man and one woman. It also requests that current Tennessee law banning same-sex marriage be adopted as amendments to the state and U.S. constitutions. Tumlin said the resolution could put to rest the debate about gays. “Everyone is asking, ‘Why didn’t you finish what you started?’” he said. “This puts an end to it.” Commissioners said they want to move past the issues of the past two months and on to more important things. “Were hoping to end it once and for all,” Tumlin said.

In protest of the original resolution, gay rights activists staged a pride celebration in the county in early June. While it drew some antigay protesters, organizers described it as a successful event.

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