After announcing that they would begin encouraging same-sex couples to apply for Tennessee state marriage licenses at their monthly community meeting last week, the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) joined couples this morning seeking to not only apply for a marriage license but also clarify the standing of existing marriages.
Davidson County couple Jef Laudieri and Will Peyton have been together for nine years and this morning applied for a Tennessee state marriage license (see video below).
"It's important that Tennessee get on board with the other 13 states that have done this ... we are at a serious economic disadvantage and a civic disadvantage for not being able to marry," Laudieri told reporters after he and Peyton were denied based on Tennessee law. "We just want the same piece of mind that every other married couple has always had and we want to do it in Tennessee where we live."
And it's those economic advantages that caused both Renee Kasman and her wife Nina Pacent and Deen Thompson to inquire about the validity of their existing marriages in the eyes of Tennessee law.
Kasman and Pacent, who have been together for 28 years, were recently married in New York following the June 26 SCOTUS decision.
"We want to know how to get information how we can be recognized in the state of Tennessee," Kasman said. "There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what we are eligible for and what we're not eligible for." "We just want to protect each other," Pacent added.
Deen Thompson, who was married to his partner in Canada in 2007, said he was most concerned with inheritance.
Chris Sanders, TEP Executive Director, told reporters this was a first step in the necessary court challenge to Tennessee's same-sex marriage ban. "It's going to require a court challenge. What happened today was a piece of that. This gives the couples that apply for marriage licenses, but are refused, more standing if they wish to challenge the state constitutional marriage ban in court . . . this is one part of a multi-pronged strategy to overturn Tennessee's state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage."
Sanders also raised awareness for the upcoming Marriage Equality Day rallies to be held in the major cities across Tennessee on August 30 and 31. "We're going to try and increase public support while we're also working on the court challenge with attorneys such as Abby Rubenfeld who has announced that she is going to challenge this."
Nashville's Marriage Equality rally will take place August 31 starting at 4 p.m. at Public Square at the Metro Courthouse. Stay tuned for a list of events across the state. To RSVP for the Nashville event click here.
photo credit: from left Deen Thompson, Jef Laudieri, Will Peyton, Nina Pacent and Renee Kasman