Leaders of Yes on 1 Ballot Committee and Tennessee Right to Life were among those present Tuesday morning in federal district court to hear arguments in the pro-abortion lawsuit brought against Amendment 1. The suit was filed on November 7, 2014, three days following public approval, by Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee Board Chair, Tracey George. Before proceedings began, George was invited by pro-abortion counsel William Harbison to join him at the counsel table. Also in the courtroom was Mark Goins, state Coordinator of Elections, who is named as a defendant by the lawsuit.
By previous agreement, each side was given an hour to present their case and the state was ably represented by Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter who presented a spirited defense of the state's electoral process, relevant precedents and a clear historical basis for ratifying the pro-life Amendment. "The (pro-abortion) plaintiff's case is based on speculation and conjecture," said Kleinfelter. "There is no injury nor are rights violated" in the state's ratification of Amendment 1.
Attorneys for Planned Parenthood have asked Federal Judge Kevin Sharp to void the election and urged that to do otherwise would invite similar "abhorrent" campaigns in the future. Sharp took the case under advisement without offering a timeline for a decision.
On Friday, both parties will be in court again. This time, however, the venue will be state court (rather than federal) where the Attorney General's office will seek an immediate judgment clarifying that the state's actions in counting the votes, ratifying and certifying the election results on Amendment 1 were correct and constitutional. Circuit Court Judge Michael Binkley will hear arguments in this second lawsuit.
"Tennessee Right to Life is confident that Amendment 1 will ultimately be upheld," said Brian Harris, the group's president. "But pro-life Tennesseans will have to remain vigilant, focused and committed in the exact way that brought victory at the Legislature and ballot box.