One of the more interesting story lines associated with the congressional push for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages and other kinds of homosexual unions has been Sen. Lamar Alexander's early opposition to the measure, making him the only Republican senator from a Southern state to take such a stance.
Over the past few months, Alexander has consistently objected to the "Federal Marriage Amendment," or "FMA," saying Tennessee already outlaws same-sex marriage. His preference has been to wait for events to play out before going so far as to amend the Constitution. His is arguably a more conservative position than that of his pro-FMA colleagues.
"If a federal court somehow took away Tennessee's right to enforce our law defining marriage as between a man and a woman," Alexander has said, "I would certainly then support a constitutional amendment restoring that right."
But Alexander's independent streak on this issue ran out this week, as he announced his intention to vote for the FMA when it comes to a vote, as it is expected to, this week. According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, an Alexander spokeswoman announced that her boss "is probably going to support it if it comes up...because, fundamentally, he has said he believes marriage is an institution that should be between a man and a woman."
So the FMA, the main political purpose of which is to pump up religious right turnout for this election andnot incidentallyto give majority leader Bill Frist's 2008 presidential aspirations a nice little boost, wins another supporter. But getting the 67 others it needs for passage is another story.
Wow, it really is a part-time job
The state legislature really has never been in a huge hurry to put information on its Web site, but as the years go by it makes more and more stuff available to the public. Recently, the full text of the House and Senate Journalsthe highly detailed diaries of floor votes and other activitieshas been made available online at www.legislature.state.tn.us, and there's lots of interesting stuff therein.
Like the fact that Rep. Tim Garrett, a Goodlettsville Democrat, has by far the worst attendance record of any member of the Davidson County delegation, missing seven out of 89 days during this General Assembly, 12 out of 102 days in the one before that, 10 out 90 days in the one before that, 17 days out of 90 in the one before that, and a whopping 23 out of 90 days in the one before that. This means that Garrett has a pretty sad 15 percent absentee rate over the past 10 years. Remember, these aren't just lame, do-nothing committee meetings. These are actual legislative session days, kind of like what you see Congress do on C-SPAN.
Garrett's supporters may rightfully point out that he was ill during some of this time. That's true, but only 10 of his 69 total absences were attributable to illness. The rest59 dayswere for "personal reasons" or "business reasons."
Two rumors have been making the rounds about local state legislative races. One, that Republican and former Seattle Seahawk Greg Gaines of Old Hickory is dropping out of his race against Democrat Mike Turner to pursue a football job in California. But Gaines tells the Scene this isn't true. The other: Democrat (and former Metro Council member) Tony Derryberry is conducting a whisper campaign about incumbent Democrat Janis Sontany's alleged support for gay rights. Anyone out there think that the vociferously anti-gay (and shockingly underwhelming) Derryberry is not gay-baiting Sontany for all its worth in the days leading up to the primary? Anyone? Anyone at all? Yeah, us neither.
In the green
The state collected a jaw-dropping $103 million more in revenue than expected last month, putting the budget surplus at a sweet $380 million. Whatever your view of the state's tax structure, it's difficult to argue with the fact that state government coffers seem to be making it just fine without a state income tax.
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