While serving the Third District in Congress for 16 years was one of the greatest privileges of my life, I have tried to “mind my own business” and stay out of the way since I left Washington and returned to the private sector. But sometimes issues come up that I voted on and the savvy young reporters call wanting perspective. This happened two weeks ago when the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, which I voted for in 1996, defining marriage on a federal level as only between a man and a woman. A recent headline in a Chattanooga publication was somewhat misleading by implying that I had changed my position on the issue of so called “same-sex marriage.” Therefore, I submit what Paul Harvey used to call “the rest of the story.”
When asked if I would vote against DOMA today, I responded that if I were in the Tennessee Legislature today I would certainly, again, vote to define marriage as only between a man and a woman because that is the forum in which this issue should now be decided. Regardless of DOMA, and as we all know, many states have held referenda and decided this issue for themselves since 1996. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the state level, and not the federal, is the proper venue for same-sex marriage issues to be decided. Furthermore, I went on to point out that defenders of traditional marriage could be pleased with this ruling by the Supreme Court because in opining that this issue should be decided at the state and not the federal level, the Court effectively foreclosed on the possibility that either it, or Congress, would in the future federalize same-sex marriage. This protects our right to define marriage as we wish here in Tennessee. While supporters of same-sex marriage may view this recent ruling as monumental, realistically it will have little effect on same-sex marriage laws. Undoubtedly, some states will continue to recognize same-sex marriages while others, like Tennessee, will not.
The article correctly states that my view of this and other social issues is based on my Biblical worldview of the definition of what a marriage should be. However, as a matter of public policy, the people of the United States should insist more and more on the “rights of the respective states” to determine certain policies for their own citizens under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. One thing we can all agree on is that the federal government is out of control, too onerous, too powerful and must be reined in. We do not need so many “one size fits all” laws of the land. One of the major reasons I left Congress to run for governor is because now more than ever, it is important for states to reclaim their autonomy under the Constitution – for states to take a stand against the steamrolling agenda of the federal government. Both parties, on the national level, have let us down by allowing the extremes to dominate the major policies of the day. What we need is a more libertarian view of the role of government in each of our lives and respect for the states to establish policies and solutions for their people.
Member of Congress 1995-2011