The move by Collegedale city government to approve benefits for homosexual partners has drawn many hoorahs and celebratory slaps on the back among gay activists and their supporters. It seems as if egalitarian law and an end to the old tyrannies of Christianity have formed a beachhead in a politically conservative and religiously oriented town.
But the vote Monday by the city commission is vulnerable to challenge. It strikes against the rule of Collegedale’s master, the Tennessee general assembly, which spoke clearly about the the estate of marriage in 2006. City attorney Sam Elliott, according to reports, insists the city does not recognize homosexual unions, illegal in Tennessee, but that it merely supports any gay city employee’s “family.”
Cities are established by the legislature as a “corporation with all the usual attributes of a corporate entity, but endowed with a public character by virtue of having been invested by the legislature with subordinate legislative powers” to administer the affairs of a community. A city is a “political arm of the state” with authority to “regulate and administer the local and internal affairs” of the people within its jurisdiction, “although its powers *** are only those which have been legislatively granted, together with the powers reasonably incident thereto,” states a legal authority, American Jurisprudence 2d.
The creatureliness of Collegedale, incorporated in 1968, is emphasized further. “A municipal corporation derives its existence and its powers from the legislature, having been created by the state as a convenient agency for exercising such of the state’s governmental powers as may be entrusted to it.” A city “is subject to virtually absolute control of the state legislature” as to its powers; “its corporate existence is created, and may be terminated, at the will of the state legislature.” A city cannot sit on the lap of the state and slap it in the face. “As a governmental agency, a municipality has no vested rights which it may assert as against the state” (italics added).
Tennessee firmly in marriage camp
Eighty-one percent of Tennessee voters supported the Tennessee marriage protection amendment, which went on the ballot in the gubernatorial election of 2006. Its language, as rendered here from Tennessee Code Annotated, is unequivocal.
"6-3-113. Marriage between one man and one woman only legally recognized marital contract.
"(a) Tennessee's marriage licensing laws reinforce, carry forward, and make explicit the long-standing public policy of this state to recognize the family as essential to social and economic order and the common good and as the fundamental building block of our society. To that end, it is further the public policy of this state that the historical institution and legal contract solemnizing the relationship of one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state in order to provide the unique and exclusive rights and privileges to marriage.
"(b) The legal union in matrimony of only one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be the only recognized marriage in this state.
"(c) Any policy, law or judicial interpretation that purports to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one (1) man and one (1) woman is contrary to the public policy of Tennessee.
"(d) If another state or foreign jurisdiction issues a license for persons to marry, which marriages are prohibited in this state, any such marriage shall be void and unenforceable in this state.
The Collegedale ordinance requires a homosexual employee such as detective Kat Cooper to proffer “an official marriage document of the state in which they were married” uniting that city employee to “her wife.” Presumably human resources manager Amber Sanderson is freed to recognize that union at law and to enlist the spouse, Krista Cooper, as a family member in the city insurance scheme.
But Tennessee law views such “official documents” from alien jurisdictions (Maryland, in this case) as written in an indecipherable tongue — maybe Latin. Such document by law in Tennessee is not just incomprehensible, but meaningless. State law prohibits any such “license” being understandable to anyone in authority in Tennessee, as such unions are “void and unenforceable in this state.”
Most Collegedale residents at the commission meeting opposed the vote. A resident among this number should consider himself to have standing to file a lawsuit to block personnel director Sanderson from entering Miz Cooper and her partner as marrieds.
(David Tulis hosts Nooganomics.com, a talk show 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays at Copperhead 1240
AM radio, which covers local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond.)
Sources: “Municipal Corporations, Counties, and Other Political Subdivisions,” American Jurisprudence 2d (Vol.56, WestGroup, 2006, 2000)
Collegedale city government, Aug. 5, 2013, Resolution no. 447, “A resolution of the city of Collegedale, Tennessee[,] relating to employee spousal and family health insurance coverage”