A Christian organization and 53 Republican Tennessee state lawmakers have teamed up to involve themselves in the divorce of Sabrina Renae Witt and Erica Christine Witt.
The Christian-based Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT) has a legal arm called the Constitutional Government Defense Fund that is filing a motion which says the lawmakers have a "unique and substantial interest in the legislative power and process will be impeded, impaired, and/or nullified" if the state courts interpret a state law regarding child custody "to apply to any persons other than a man and woman joined together as 'husband' and 'wife,'" notes The Tennessean.
Sabrina had a daughter born via artificial insemination, and Knox County Circuit Court Judge Greg McMillan ruled in June that Erica did not have parental rights via Tennessee law because artificial insemination custody issues only include the birth mother's husband and not a same-sex spouse of the mom.
FACT and the Republican lawmakers appear to support McMillan's ruling, which means Erica does not have any rights when it comes to child visitation or making decisions regarding the child.
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However, Erica's lawyer says that the U.S Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage should also make the state law include same-sex spouses.
McMillan has placed a hold on the divorce while a state court of appeals rules on whether or not to hear the case.
David Fowler, a lawyer and the executive director of FACT, said in a Sept. 9 press release:
These legislators are to be commended for taking quick action in the midst of campaigning and preparing for a special session next week. They understand the importance of this case constitutionally. This is not a case involving the policy that should be applicable in situations such as this.
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Rather, this case involves a very important constitutional question -- Does the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision authorize judges to determine for state legislative bodies what policies it must have relative to custody issues in divorce proceedings? If it does, then matters of family law, which have historically been within the constitutional powers of the states to determine, will have essentially been judicially taken from the states and placed in the hands of federal judges.
I hope their constituents appreciate the fact that they are defending the will of the people, who, through their state constitution, vested the power of determining public policies issues in the legislative branch that is directly accountable to them and for defending our state’s sovereignty from further encroachment as a result of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision.