The English Only charter amendment referendum seems to have cleared its last legal hurdle.
On Monday, the Tennessee Supreme Court said it would not grant an expedited hearing to an appeal of a decision in Davidson County Chancery Court last week. Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman rejected a challenge seeking to keep English Only off the Jan. 22 election ballot, because she ruled the issue was not ripe until the special election had taken place.
The Supreme Court re-referred the case to the Tennessee Court of Appeals while also saying an expedited hearing was not necessary.
The pre-election challenge to English Only came from Honduran refugee Rosa Quinteros, who said the proposed Metro charter amendment infringed on her right to free speech and to access the government.
The proposal would make English the official language of Metro government and state no individual has a right to services in any other language. It does make exceptions for health and safety.
Nashville attorney David Randolph Smith, who represented Quinteros on the lawsuit pro-bono, was disappointed by the Supreme Court ruling. According to Smith, the ruling stated the court would not hear an expedited appeal because the election was going to take place no matter what.
A second charter amendment proposal — which according to its proponents would make petition-driven amendments easier — is also on the ballot for Jan. 22. Since the second charter amendment proposal was going forward regardless, the court said it would not expedite a hearing on the English Only proposal’s constitutionality.
“The court did not address the constitutionality nor did the court address the issue Chancellor Bonnyman ruled upon and I think it’s unfortunate a measure is being put on the ballot that Metro says is unconstitutional,” Smith said.
Mayor Karl Dean has spoken out against the English Only proposal and Metro Council as a whole passed a resolution asking voters to oppose it.
In its response to the Quinteros lawsuit, the Metro Legal Department admitted the proposal was unconstitutional.