The McMinn County Commission has unanimously approved a resolution seeking relief from a recent United States Supreme Court ruling allowing same sex marriage and overriding state jurisdiction of the issue.
Last month, elected officials and many citizens expressed strong opposition to the high court's ruling. Included among the dissenters were Gene and Norma Whiting, who presented a resolution for Commission consideration that opposes same-sex unions based largely on tenets of Christianity.
The resolution put forth for Commission approval on Monday night is rooted exclusively in states' rights and Constitutional interpretation - foregoing any reference to Christianity or the Bible.
The resolution reads, in part, "the Ninth and Tenth Amendments of the United States Constitution reserves all powers not explicitly delegated to the federal government, to the people and the states, respectively ... the United States Constitution does not address the institution of marriage and other domestic relations ... it is the belief of the McMinn County Commission that the United States Supreme Court and many of the lower federal courts have by virtue of their decisions increasingly encroached on the rights of the states and the people by granting powers to the federal government not expressly granted to it by the Constitution ... we as members of this elected body publicly express the concerns of our citizens that our judiciary has become increasingly joined with the other branches (of federal government) on matters of social and public policy our Founding Fathers intended to be maintained by the states and those individuals capable of self-governance."
The resolution concludes, "this Commission does hereby urge our (state) legislative delegation to introduce legislation to initiate the process of returning powers not expressly delegated to the United States government back to the states and the people."
Prior to Monday's vote, two petitioners on opposing sides of the issue stepped to the podium to address the County Commission.
Whitney Kimball Coe strongly advocated in favor of marriage equality.
"I don't think you're speaking for a broad group of people in this community," she said. "I think there are a lot of folks who would not agree with this resolution and would not like to see the McMinn County Commission take a political stance on this."
Kimball Coe feels this type of resolution may stifle future growth within the county.
"It suggests that we are a closed place that is not inclusive and not open to change or diversity of opinion or families," she said. "That makes me nervous for the future of our community."
Kimball Coe said she has her own disagreements with some U.S. Supreme Court rulings and it is the right of all Americans to voice their disapproval.
"Post this on your social media website or put it in the paper if you feel called to do that," she said, "but put it under your own name; don't suggest that this is a McMinn statement of belief because it's not."
In response to Kimball Coe, Commission Chairman David Crews referenced the 2006 passage of a statewide referendum called the Tennessee Marriage Protection Amendment - a state Constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions. It was approved by 81 percent of voters - including 88 percent of McMinn County voters - and specifies that only a marriage between a man and a woman can be legally recognized in Tennessee.
"I don't think we're representing a minority; I think we're representing a majority," said Crews.
"I feel like it's the Supreme Court's position to protect the rights of minorities who are being discriminated against," replied Kimball Coe. "(It's not) the right policy just because the majority holds it to be so."
Darrell McCormick presented his opposing view by citing many of the Christian tenets put forth by petitioners a month earlier.
"I do believe in Biblical principles and I want to stand on Biblical principles," he said. "I would like to ask you to do the same."
While clearly a proponent of the Commission resolution, McCormick felt the language should be expanded to reflect Biblical teachings.
"Pass the resolution and send it to anyone you need to pass it to and make the language very strong, very simple and very plain," he said.
According to County Mayor John Gentry, similar resolutions were approved by state governments in Florida, Georgia and Alaska prior to the federal court ruling. He added that 31 other states have already filed to do the same.
"This is not something that is unique to McMinn County," said Gentry.
The Tennessee Senate has already passed Senate Bill No. 67, which is expected to be reintroduced in the next state legislative session, according to Gentry.
"This is the language they're requesting from counties that allows them to go forward to address issues like this and others in a legal manner," said Gentry.
Commissioner Dale Holbrook's motion to pass the resolution was seconded by Commissioner J.W. McPhail and approved by all 10 Commission members.