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Judge Refuses Divorce Due to SCOTUS Ruling on Gay Marriage

— September 8, 2015

In a jaw-dropping display of WTF?! a Tennessee judge refuses to grant a straight couple’s divorce because the SCOTUS OK’d same-sex marriage. This judge accuses the Supremes of being a “judi-idiocracy,” but I think he needs to look in the mirror. His argument that the SCOTUS has so interfered in what marriage is that he, a mere trial court judge, cannot tell what marriage isn’t or when a marriage is no longer a marriage, used this case to make a personal statement.

Oh, for the love of logic! We have another “I can’t do my job because I don’t want to make Jesus cry!” whiner. It’s even worse this time, as it’s a judge! A Tennessee judge refuses divorce due to SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage.

You read it right. This formerly brilliant judge just threw his own career under the bus to make a point. So far, no one is comparing him to MLK, but give it time.

It’s an odd argument Judge Jeffrey Atherton poses. Sadly, it’s becoming more frequently used, too. It seems that conservatives are a bit pissy because they didn’t get their way in the Obergefell case and homos everywhere got the right to marry. We all know what pissy conservatives do, don’t we? They trot out old arguments of “SCOTUS overreach” that, had the decision gone their way, they would have celebrated as proper justice. Enter Judge Atherton.

By most accounts a great judge, Atherton won his spot on the bench in 2010 with relative ease and was re-elected unopposed in 2014. In 2012, local lawyers weren’t so crazy about Atherton, according to a poll. However, a “fan” letter appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2010.

His fan, Pamela Rector, now a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, wrote, “Despite the time away from his supportive family and the impact on his billable hours, Jeffrey M. Atherton (or Mr. A as he is known to us) spent eight-plus hours per week for more than 20 years pouring his life into high school students who wanted to learn about the law. He has lived the principles that he taught us: ‘desire for justice, devotion to excellence, commitment to character, love of the law and faith in God.'”

All of that went out the window when Thomas and Pamela Bumgardner stood before Atherton in July seeking a divorce. The couple, in their 60s, cited irreconcilable differences and straying allegiances as cause for the termination of their 13 year marriage. What they got was a piece of judicial activism that would have sent most conservatives into apoplexy had it not come from one of their own. They also got a first-hand look at dereliction of duty at its finest.

Honestly, the Bumgardner’s should file a grievance. Atherton let the proceeding go on for four days, including calling seven witnesses and admitting seventy-seven exhibits into evidence before he decided to make a mockery of the judicial system and his own reputation.

Atherton’s opinion reads like, well, like one of my pieces: analytical and totally sarcastic.

He began with “The Tennessee Court of Appeals has noted that Obergefell v. Hodges … affected what is, and must be recognized as, a lawful marriage in the State of Tennessee. This leaves a mere trial level Tennessee state court judge in a bit of a quandary. With the U.S. Supreme Court having defined what must be recognized as a marriage, it would appear that Tennessee’ s judiciary must now await the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court as to what is not a marriage, or better stated, when a marriage is no longer a marriage.”

He went on to say, “The majority’ s opinion in Obergefell, regardless of its patronizing and condescending verbiage, is now the law of the land, accurately described by Justice Scalia as ‘a naked judicial claim to legislative— indeed, super-legislative— power.’ … What actually appears to be the intent and (more importantly) the effect of the Supreme Court ruling is to preempt state courts from addressing marriage/divorce litigation altogether.”

Once warmed up, the judge hits his stride:

“Perhaps Tennessee’s perspective concerning keystones and central institutions must submit to the perspective of those so much higher and wiser than ourselves. To say the least, Tenn. Const. art. XI, § 18, [defining marriage as between a man and a woman] having been adopted by the people of the State of Tennessee in 2006 as reflecting the will, desire, public policy and law of this State, and to be applied by its judiciary, seems a bit on the incompatible side with the U.S. Supreme Court’ s ruling. One would think that if the U.S. Supreme Court intended to overturn all or part of a state’s constitution, it would do so expressly, rather than by implication.”

He wrapped up that segment by asking, in a footnote, whether SCOTUS’s marriage ruling didn’t also overturn another part of his state’s constitution, to wit, that “the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.”

Hmmm. Makes one wonder how Atherton’s ancestors felt about slavery and women voting, since he is so strongly against the SCOTUS “interfering” with state law…

They say, “it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings,” [opera reference, not sizeism; I’m “fluffy” myself] and wow, what a performance was Atherton’s conclusion:

“Although this Court has some vague familiarity with the governmental theories of democracy, republicanism, socialism, communism, fascism, theocracy, and even despotism, implementation of this apparently new ‘super-federal-judicial’ form of benign and benevolent government, termed ‘krytocracy’ by some and ‘judi-idiocracy’ by others, with its iron fist and limp wrist, represents quite a challenge for a state level trial court.”

Iron fist and limp wrist? Oh. No. You. Didn’t.


He went on to say, “Individuals, at least according to the majority opinion, are apparently authorized (along with the federal judiciary) to define when a marriage begins and, accordingly, ends, (without the pesky intervention/intrusion of a state court).”

Of course, he set up the old conservative saw that marriage is now doomed to become an institution honoring man’s love of Fido and woman’s love of John Deere. Points for brilliant use of reductio ad absurdum, but that’s all the concession the mouth breathers will get from me.

The genius Texas Republican rep, Louie Gohmert, said in 2013: “When you say it’s not a man and a woman anymore, then why not have three men and one woman or four women and one man? Or why not, you know, somebody has a love for an animal or-? There is no clear place to draw a line once you eliminate the traditional marriage.”

Frankly, I’d pay to get a peek at this joker’s fantasy life…

One of the 400 or so GOP presidential hopefuls, Ben Carson, offered his learned opinion in December: “When I mention bestiality or pedophilia in the same sentence with homosexuality, people say ‘Carson says they’re the same.’ Of course they’re not the same. That point was if you change the definition of marriage for one group, you’ll have to change it for the next group and the next group.”

Look dude, if freakin’ chimpanzees can’t win “personhood” so as to be protected from being caged and experimented on, I don’t think you’ll be seeing any “I now pronounce you husband and hound dog” any time soon.

Not one to be left out, yet another (isn’t there a spray or an ointment for this?) GOP presidential hopeful and all-around asshat, Ted Cruz, jumped into the fray. His comments support fellow mouth breather and current jailbird, Kim Davis.

“Today, judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny. Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith. This is wrong. This is not America. I stand with Kim Davis. Unequivocally. I stand with every American that the Obama Administration is trying to force to choose between honoring his or her faith or complying with a lawless court opinion.”

Christian, please! The last time your kind was persecuted, I was selling peanuts at the Coliseum because it paid better than cleaning lion cages.

The fact remains that Atherton grossly neglected his sworn duties in order to make a personal statement on an issue with which he didn’t agree. And, he did so at great expense to the taxpayers of Tennessee by stretching out the Bumgardner divorce case and refusing to grant the divorce, which will result in future court time for all concerned.

As I recently wrote, this “I can’t do my job because [insert deity of choice] will cry!” bull squirt has got to stop. At the rate we’re going, I won’t be able to get a damn pizza because “I can’t use tomato sauce in this unsanctioned way or the Flying Spaghetti Monster will cry!”


Tenn. judge refuses to grant straight couple a divorce because … gay marriage

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