NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee lawmaker whose bill would bar the state from following the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling says he is undeterred by a projected loss of $8.5 billion in federal funds if the proposal becomes law.
State Rep. Mark Pody said at a state Capitol rally on Tuesday that the proposal he has dubbed the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act” is worth any cost — and the Republican from the Nashville suburb of Lebanon disputed the estimated loss of federal funds.
“The right to who we are is at stake,” Pody said.
He cited a 2006 amendment to the state constitution that defined marriage as being only between a man and a woman and declared that any judicial interpretation to the contrary “shall be void and unenforceable in Tennessee.”
That amendment passed with more than 80 percent of the vote a decade ago.
“We’re only upholding what we’ve already voted on,” Pody said. “They trampled our constitution.”
Last year’s decision by the nation’s highest court was based on cases in four states including Tennessee, where three couples had sued to have their out-of-state marriages recognized.
Pody’s proposal is scheduled for its first hearing in a House subcommittee Wednesday afternoon. Pody urged supporters to contact the five members of the panel to persuade them not to kill the bill.
Legislative analysts estimated that if the state refuses services to same-sex couples, Tennessee stands to lose $6.5 billion in federal Medicaid money and another $2 billion in food stamp and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds.
Committee member Bill Beck, a Nashville Democrat, said he won’t support the measure.
“The Supreme Court dictates the law of the land,” Beck said. “Are we going to secede from the union?”
Beck dismissed Pody’s proposal as “red meat” for conservatives.
“They love it, and Pody will keep it playing as long as he can,” Beck said. “He’s turning them out right and left.”
But some Republicans who oppose gay marriage say a better approach would be to pass a resolution demanding that the state’s attorney general file a lawsuit to block the ruling.
It’s not the first time Pody has sought to block federal laws in Tennessee. In 2014, he proposed legislation seeking to block the implementation of President Barack Obama’s health care law in Tennessee. It didn’t pass.
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