Former Juvenile Court Magistrate Says Gay Marriage Is "Nothing You Put In Air Quotes"

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A former magistrate at Juvenile Court, who claims she was fired by Judge Rob Philyaw because she is openly gay, said Wednesday that gay marriage "is nothing you put in air quotes."

She referred to County Attorney Rheubin Taylor asking her about her ceremony in marrying another woman and raising his hands to form quote marks.

Elizabeth Gentzler is suing Hamilton County, Judge Philyaw and Court Administrator Sam Mairs in the courtroom of Judge Travis McDonough.

Attorney Stuart James said the plaintiff side is set to be concluded on Thursday, and the defense will begin. However, Judge McDonough said there will be no court on Friday and then there will be a recess for two weeks or more while he handles another trial.

A jury of five men and three women is hearing the case.

Ms. Gentzler was asked by County Attorney Taylor if there are other gays at Juvenile Court, and she said, "There may be." She said they would be "closeted."

She said she was open about her relationship with another woman and invited several magistrates to their civil ceremony. She said at least two - and possibly three - attended.

She was an intake supervisor at the time, and she said she did not tell her staff. However, she said they "started asking questions when they saw rings on my fingers."

Ms. Gentzler said becoming married to another gay person "is life changing."

Asked if she is "proud of who you are," she said, "Absolutely."

She made almost $80,000 a year at the time she was fired by Judge Philyaw just after he had won election to an eight-year term in 2014.

Ms. Gentzler said she tried to get another job with the county because she was just six months short of becoming vested in the retirement system. She finally got on with state Probation and is a JAG attorney with the U.S. Army.

She said she makes about $10,000 per year in the JAG position and made $39,246 with the state in 2016.

Ms. Gentzler said after Judge Philyaw came into the post she wrote him a page about herself and at the bottom mentioned "I had a partner named Jen."

She said he was stand-offish toward her and sometimes hostile. She said often he left her out of functions that others in the office were invited to.

Ms. Gentzler also said Mr. Mairs was sometimes hostile toward her and made joking comments about gays. She said the air conditioner went out in her courtroom on a Monday and still was not on by Wednesday. She said she went to the court administrator and he told her, "We only have to provide you a place to work. It doesn't have to be a comfortable place."

As to allegations that the new judge did not have time for her, County Attorney Taylor said he was wrapping up his law practice, getting to know his new job, and also campaigning for election.

The plaintiff's wife, Jen (who has adopted the Gentzler name), said she grew up in Chattanooga and graduated from Tyner High School and UTC.

She said at about age 15 or 16 "I realized I was different." However, she did not tell her parents and sister until she was 29. She said they have been very supportive.

She told the jury, "At that point, people didn't like gay people and felt they were going to hell." She said, "I didn't want to get hurt. It was nerve-wracking."

Jen said she appears in looks like a straight person and "flies under the radar." However, she said Elizabeth Gentzler dresses and has an appearance so that it is more obvious.

She was asked, "What's it like being a gay person in Chattanooga?" She replied, "It's a little better than it was." But she said she still worries about getting threats and wonders when she is at a restaurant "if someone will spit in my food."

The witness said she first met Elizabeth Gentzler on Dec. 13, 2004, at the place where she was working as a legal assistant. She said she opened the door for her "and I just looked at her and fell in love."

She said they saw each other some when they both worked at the same place, but much more so when Elizabeth Gentzler started her own law practice.

She said being a magistrate was a "dream job" for Ms. Gentzler.

The witness told of going to several functions at the court, and she said she brought baked goods. She said former Judge Suzanne Bailey "loved me," noting she would make low-cholesterol goodies for her.

At the time at Juvenile Court, "I felt very welcome. No one looked at me funny," she said. 

 

 



TDOT Begins Slide Repair Work On State Route 68 In Rhea County; Project Expected To Take 4 Weeks

TDOT personnel and contract crews began work Thursday to repair a section of SR-68 near log mile 5 in Rhea County that is currently closed due to a slide that occurred earlier this week.  The work is expected to take approximately four weeks to complete.  The road will remain closed to through traffic as the repairs are underway.  Recent wet weather caused a ... (click for more)

TBI Says Nakayla Sullivan Was Responsible For Death Of Missing Bledsoe Man

  A joint investigation by special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, deputies with the Bledsoe County Sheriff’s Department and officers with the Pikeville Police Department has resulted in the arrest of a Pikeville woman on a charge of criminal homicide.   Nakayla Shawnta Sullivan, 25, was arrested and charged with one count of criminal homicide. ... (click for more)

Keep The Gifted Program In The Hamilton County Schools - And Response (2)

I currently have a daughter in fourth grade at Lookout Valley Elementary and a daughter in the eighth grade at Lookout Valley Middle High School. Both of my daughters are very good students, as well as being very good people. I am writing today with a concern. I was made aware that the Hamilton County Department of Education is considering cutting the gifted program ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A True Tennessean

“Last week I told some Republican friends who have held high office, traditional and true Republicans, who like you are both conservative and compassionate, Christians in their personal faith and public service,” the email began. “These are Tennessee Republicans that I have known for decades, and whom I'd trust with my life and my wife … I told them that my views and values make ... (click for more)

Cagle's One-Hitter Leads South Pittsburg Win

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. – South Pittsburg pitcher EJ Cagle is starting to refine his one-hitters.   For the second game in a row, the right-hander twirled a complete-game one-hitter, limiting visiting Lookout Valley to a bloop hit in the Pirates’ 10-0 shutout of the Jackets in a matchup of regular-season champions  Wednesday  night.   In ... (click for more)

Bradley Rides Bunch's 3-Hitter To 5-0 Win And 5-3A Baseball Title

Bradley Central’s opening 9-3 loss to Soddy-Daisy in a double-header to decide the District 5-3A regular-season champion on Wednesday, meant second-game starter Andy Bunch, a senior right-hander, needed to turn in a Herculean effort for the Bears. Bunch came through with flying colors at Tom Higgins Field. The hard-throwing Bunch fired a three-hit shutout at the Trojans ... (click for more)