The good news: On Thursday, state Court Judge Michael Binkley upheld the November 2014 vote on Amendment 1 and the state's method of counting the votes on proposed amendments as correct under the Tennessee Constitution. This victory is key because ultimate interpretation of the Tennessee Constitution belongs with the state courts and state court judges.
Second, the bad news: On Friday, Federal Court Judge Kevin Sharp demanded a recount of the ballots on Amendment 1 and held that any ballots on which Tennesseans voted for Amendment 1 but did not vote in the Governor's race must be thrown out. Sharp's basis for taking such a radical step is that he shares the view of Planned Parenthood that votes of those not casting a ballot in the governor's race were more heavily weighted and favored than those of pro-abortion voters who opposed Amendment 1. This, they claim, violates 14th Amendment protections for due process and equal protection.
Judge Sharp has directed state officials including Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins to provide a timetable for a statewide recount of the ballots.
Please be assured that defense of Amendment 1 is the absolute priority of Tennessee Right to Life and the Yes on 1 Ballot Committee. While some supporters of Amendment 1 promoted an under-vote in the Governor's race as a means of helping to pass the measure, neither Tennessee Right to Life nor Yes on 1 did so. When asked, our public position was that Governor Haslam had served as a pro-life governor and was deserving of our votes. Our message was consistently Vote YES on 1, not "Vote YES on 1 but-not-for-governor."
That aside, Tennessee Right to Life and Yes on 1 Ballot Committee are committed to continuing the struggle to uphold the Amendment and the rights of Tennessee voters to cast their ballots according to the constitutionally-proscribed process which has been followed by every amendment passed in our state's history. And we will be vigilant to defend the rights of every voter who cast their ballot according to their conscience.
Early legal analysis indicates very shaky ground for Judge Sharp's ruling. Aside from being filled with typos, attorneys identify significant legal errors which will give pause as the case is brought forward on appeal. Most importantly, Sharp's willingness to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters based on ideological grounds will be a hard case to defend.
How Can You Help?
Pray. As far back as 1997, prayer has undergirded the long effort to turn back the pro-abortion rulings in Planned Parenthood v Sundquist. Prayer will sustain and guide pro-life leaders and lawyers as we seek to faithfully defend life, abortion-vulnerable families and the unborn in the weeks and months ahead.
Contribute. Yes on 1 still carries debt from the final weeks of the 2014 campaign. With a 53% - 47% victory, it was critical the critical effort to move undecided voters through strengthened media buys which closed the race in our favor. Now, it will be costly to defend the unique interests of Yes on 1, Tennessee Right to Life and pro-life voters in the ongoing legal assault being brought by Planned Parenthood.
Stay Informed. Please join the Facebook and Twitter accounts of Tennessee Right to Life and YES on 1. Some events will move quickly and the best means of staying up-to-date, sharing the information, and taking needed action is through social media.
Invite a Speaker. Tennessee Right to Life has an updated presentation that can be tailored to your group, class or church. Time frame can be as little as 10 minutes or up to an hour with a question and answer session. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Write a Letter to the Editor. Talking points are available from Right to Life and using your pen to be a voice for the unborn helps to educate and influence others. Just be sure your facts are accurate and up-to-date.
Please remember that the legal defense of existing pro-life policies such as informed consent and 48 hour waiting period for women and girls considering abortion, as well as requirements that abortion facilities be inspected and licensed with hospital admitting privileges for those performing abortions are at stake. So is our ability to enact and enforce additional safeguards for the health and safety of women, girls and unborn children.