Tennessee judge rejects couple's divorce petition because of same-sex marriage bill

Judge Atherton said it was no longer clear what constitutes a divorce

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The Independent US

A US judge has rejected a couple’s divorce petition, arguing that the country’s recently introduced same-sex marriage laws have confused the social institution.

Married in 2002, Tennessee couple Thomas and Pamela Bumgardner filed for divorce in September 2014, citing irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct.

However, Jeffrey Atherton, who presides over Hamilton County, said he cannot grant the couple a divorce because the US Supreme Court did not clarify “when a marriage is no longer a marriage” when it passed historic legislation allowed same-sex unions in June.

“With the US Supreme Court having defined what must be recognised as a marriage, it would appear that Tennessee’s judiciary must now await the decision of the US Supreme Court as to what is not a marriage, or better stated, when a marriage is no longer a marriage,” Atherton wrote in the order, according to the Times Free Press.

Atherton has been accused of “unnecessary grandstanding” over the Bumgardner’s case in order to express his opinion on the landmark Supreme Court ruling, which was met with celebrations across the country.

Regina Lambert, an attorney who represented plaintiffs from Tennessee in the Supreme Court case, told The Guardian: “I think the chancellor was really making more of a statement of his personal feelings as opposed to having a legitimate concern over the divorce laws.

“It’s unnecessary grandstanding by the judge so he can express disapproval,” she said.


Meanwhile in Kentucky, a court clerk has been jailed for refusing to issue same-sex wedding permits.

Kim Davis, a 49-year-old apostolic Christian, said that she would not issue the licenses under an office policy she created following the Supreme Court ruling.

“Personal opinions, including my own, are not relevant to today,” US District Judge David Bunning, told Mr Davis at a court hearing on Thursday.

Mrs Davis husband Joe said that his wife’s office are now issue licenses because the judge is forcing them, The Washington Post reported.