September 3, 2015

Oh, FFS. Now that Kim Davis has become the Great Martyr of the Holy Billionaires, we've got a Tennessee judge stepping up to hammer people who want divorces, because...same sex marriage? Will these wingers ever just grow up?

A local judge contends the U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage has derailed Tennessee's ability to determine what constitutes divorce — leaving one Signal Mountain couple married against their will.

Hamilton County Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton denied the divorce petition last week after hearing from seven witnesses and going through 77 exhibits. Among several reasons he cited in rejecting the couple's divorce, one was the Supreme Court's June ruling.

Atherton said the Supreme Court must clarify "when a marriage is no longer a marriage." Otherwise, he contended, state courts are impaired from addressing marriage and divorce litigation altogether.

"The conclusion reached by this Court is that Tennesseans have been deemed by the U.S. Supreme Court to be incompetent to define and address such keystone/central institutions such as marriage, and, thereby, at minimum, contested divorces," Atherton wrote.

In other words, call the WAAAAHMBULANCE!!!! This judge isn't competent to figure out that Party A and Party B no longer wish to be bound by marriage and have requested that the court grant that request. The only reason he gives for his lack of competence is that he doesn't like the fact that parties A and B might be male and male or female and female?

Atherton also didn't care for the reasons this couple gave: irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct. Apparently Atherton didn't find evidence of said conduct. No-fault divorce laws, anyone?

Jim Blumstein, a professor of constitutional law at Vanderbilt University, said the Supreme Court decision does not appear to be the main determinant behind Atherton's dismissal; he believes Atherton is expressing his political disagreement with the ruling.

Whether Atherton disagreed with the decision is beside the point, said Penny White, a former member of the Tennessee Supreme Court and now a professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law.

"State court judges, regardless of their personal points of view, must defer to the Supreme Court's constitutional interpretation," she said in a written statement.

In his office Wednesday afternoon, Atherton defended his decision but declined to discuss it.

"I don't want extraneous conversation," he said. "I'll have to stick with the words of the order."

Skirting questions about the Supreme Court, Atherton picked up a volume of Tennessee statutes, leafing through the pages.

"There are several different grounds a person can claim to support entitlement to divorce," he said.

The Bumgardners, in their petition, listed two: inappropriate marital conduct — which Atherton said was never proved — and irreconcilable differences.

This couple now has to go back to court all over again with different reasons to petition for divorce. It might be cheaper for them to head out to Nevada and get one there.

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