Politics of Personal Intrusion 

We hate to say it, but state Sen. Jeff Miller got his.

We hate to say it, but state Sen. Jeff Miller got his.

Were he not one of the Senate's most intrusive moralizers—a man who wants the government to decide who can marry, who wants to legislate the "sanctity of marriage," and who makes no bones about finding gays unfit to wed (even though his brother is a heathen homo)—his own divorce and alleged cheating wouldn't be a news story all across the state.

But he is—and it was.

"This is a very, very personal matter, and it's not for the public purview that I can see," Sen. Miller told the Chattanooga Times Free Press, which broke the story that the sponsor of the "Marriage Protection Amendment" was being accused by his wife of "inappropriate marital conduct" in divorce papers.

We couldn't agree more that it should be personal. But not when you exploit your public soapbox to meddle in the personal lives of voters and taxpayers. No editor this side of the Drudge Report would have allowed such airing of personal dirty laundry into their news pages were it not for the presence of such stark hypocrisy perpetrated by an elected official.

When will lawmakers learn their lesson and stick to governing what's in their "purview"? For Christ's sake, Sen. Doug Jackson was one of the chief promoters of a (failed) bill this legislative session that would have banned gay adoptions. And he was once accused of child abuse and ordered to attend family counseling.

We couldn't make this stuff up if we tried. If lawmakers are going to stick their noses where they don't belong, they at least should make sure their noses are clean.

The latest attempt at legislative fiat would allow judges discretion to split assets among divorcing couples in favor of those who claim their spouses committed adultery. It's yet another example of government officials insinuating themselves into intensely personal matters, betraying the notion of limited government that so many of these social conservative lawmakers advance when it suits their purposes.

Don't get us wrong: we're not pro-adultery. But we're also not for giving lawmakers and judges carte blanche to say how Tennesseans should dissolve their marriages and split their assets.

And while it's busy trying to impose morality on the rest of us, the Tennessee General Assembly is struggling to get its own house in order, and is missing the mark on desperately needed ethics legislation to prevent perversions of the legislative process—the kind of corruption and personal gain that state Sen. John Ford has been exposed for.

Instead of simply passing a bill that would require lawmakers to live in the districts they represent (Ford doesn't) and banning them from signing lucrative consulting contracts with companies that do business with the state (like Ford did), the state Senate is instead hung up on a far-reaching bill that, once again, tries to legislate the personal lives of citizens.

Though he is among the smartest and generally most thoughtful state lawmakers, state Sen. Roy Herron's version of ethics legislation would not only ban these consulting contracts, but it would also ban legislators from being married to state lobbyists (though existing relationships would be grandfathered). With all respect to Herron, the government shouldn't be in the business of telling people whom they can marry. If a lawmaker's spouse has legislation before the General Assembly, the lawmaker can simply skip that vote. What Herron is proposing is like a doctor recommending foot amputation when it just needs a little Desenex. (Fortunately, the House version avoids the over-reaching marital mandate.) Meanwhile, simpler and more fundamental reforms—like making sure elected officials live in the district they represent—are going ignored.

We urge Herron to acquiesce, and the rest of the legislature to realize that if they continue the moralizing, their dirty laundry will be fair game too.


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