NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — GOP Congressional candidate Andy Ogles’ comments from a June candidate forum where he said same-sex marriage should be a state decision rather than a federal one, are concerning for LGBT activists and are repeatedly being shared by his opponent.
When asked what position he would take on abortion if he were elected to U.S Congress, the Republican candidate for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional district said he would want more issues left to the states.
“We are a republic of free states. So, California has the right to be liberal. Tennessee has the right to be conservative. What the Supreme Court has done with Roe v. Wade and also with overturning the New York gun ban is standing firm on the 10th amendment,” he began. “The next thing we need to do is go after gay marriage. We need to revert that back to the states, so each and every state can decide her destiny.”
The seat Ogles is running for is currently held by a Democrat, but when the new district lines were drawn after the most recent U.S. Census, Davidson County was split into three separate congressional districts. Political analysts say the lines were drawn to favor Republican candidates.
Democratic candidate and former State Senator Heidi Campbell posted the June 2022 clip of Ogles to her campaign account this week.
“If Ogles gets his way, states like Tennessee will ban same-sex marriage again and start discriminating against our families and loved ones,” she tweeted.
Vanderbilt political science professor John Geer said Campbell’s decision to amplify Ogles’ more socially conservative views makes sense.
“I think the tactic of the Campbell campaign is this is about extremism,” Geer said. “Ogles is a little more of an extreme candidate who may not appeal to the more moderate suburban voters, especially in regards to issues like Dobbs.”
While Geer says it is far from clear that the Supreme Court will even consider overturning the 2015 landmark decision on same-sex marriage, he believes the Tennessee General Assembly will act if that ever happens.
“If same-sex is overturned by the current Supreme Court, I would expect the state legislator to act very quickly on that,” he said.
However, he cautioned Republican lawmakers are more conservative than the state as a whole, so it that move may not receive a lot of praise.
Worries over the future of same-sex marriage came after Justice Clarence Thomas opened the door in his Dobbs v. Jackson opinion to overturning similar rulings, like same-sex marriage. While another justice tried to indicate the overturning of Roe v. Wade shouldn’t be read that way, the U.S. House of Representatives took a vote on a bill that would protect same-sex marriage. The bill passed with bipartisan support but no support from Tennessee Republicans.
Director of the Tennessee Equality Project Chris Sanders also said if same-sex marriage was left to Tennessee, it would be banned.
“It would be devastating to a lot of families because a lot of them have built lives together,” Sanders said. “It would disrupt their income, it would disrupt adoption situations for them, it would hurt to the lives of their children.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-same-sex marriage group, 54% of Tennesseans support same-sex marriage. While that is more than half of the state, it is less than the national average.
The Tennessee constitution was also amended in 2006 to ban same-sex marriage.
“The relationship of one man and one woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state,” the state Constitution says.
The Supreme Court’s decision nullified that addition, but activists like Sanders say with that language in place, any discussion of making this a state decision in Tennessee has a clear objective.
“By putting it back in the states, it is not a neutral action. He knows what the practical effect in Tennessee would be and that’s a ban,” he said.
Ogles did not respond to requests for a comment or interview. The owner of the video Campbell published to her social media pages declined requests to include it.