Haslam Hits Hot-Button Issues in Conference Talk

May 29, 2014

Credit Matt Moon, WUOT News

Objecting to the death penalty is a valid view, according to Gov. Bill Haslam. But Haslam says he was bound by political will and public opinion to sign a bill that reinstates the electric chair as a backup execution method in the state.

Haslam delivered that response to a young woman who asked about the electric chair bill Tuesday at a conference organized by the American Legion Auxiliary. Volunteer Girls State is an annual event that gathers young women from around the state to learn about government and politics.

The high schooler who queried Haslam called the death penalty inhumane, according to the Nashville Tennessean. Haslam responded that valid philosophical arguments could be made against the death penalty on both moral and economic grounds. But ultimately, Tennessee's voters and lawmakers have shown strong support for capital punishment, and Haslam said he is bound to uphold that will.

Another questioner asked about Tennessee's voter-approved ban on same sex marriage. Haslam has never spoken publicly about his personal feelings on the matter. Tuesday's event was no exception, but Haslam may have given same sex marriage supporters some hope when he said his duties require him to support the ban "until a judge rules that law is unconstitutional or until there's a different vote."

A case currently making its way through the federal court system would chip away at Tennessee's 2006 constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. To date, same sex marriage bans in ten states have been declared unconstitutional in whole or in part. State courts in Arkansas and Texas have made similar rulings.