The Sevier County Clerk’s office will now issue marriage licenses to all couples, both opposite-sex and same-sex couples who apply to marry.
In Sevier County and across Tennessee, government offices are preparing to make marriage licenses available to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court ruled on Friday, June 26, 2015 that states cannot ban same-sex couples from marrying and must recognize those unions.
Petitioners in the case were 14 same-sex couples and two men whose same–sex partners are deceased. Each resided in a state that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, and claimed their state violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights by denying them the right to marry or refusing to recognize a marriage lawfully performed in another state.
The petitioners each filed suits in District Courts in their home states and won. However, the states appealed to the United States Court of Appeals, which consolidated the cases and reversed the decision of the District Courts. The Supreme Court agreed to review the decision of the lower courts and in a 5-4 decision, ruled for the petitioners.
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. – Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, majority opinion in Overgefell v. Hodges
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Kennedy in the ruling. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.
This Supreme Court decision overturns the Tennessee Marriage Protection Amendment passed by voters in 2006, which decreed the state would only recognize a marriage between on man and one woman.
“Today’s United States Supreme Court decision not only changes the definition of marriage, but takes from the states and their citizens the longstanding authority to vote and decide what marriage means,” said Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III in a statement. “To the Tennessee citizen who asks ‘Don’t we get a chance to vote on this in some way?’ the answer from the Supreme Court is a resounding, ‘No, you do not.’ For the Court to tell all Tennesseans that they have no voice, no right to vote, on these issues is disappointing. The Court, nevertheless, has spoken and we respect its decision. Our office is prepared to work with the Governor and the General Assembly, as needed, to take the necessary steps to implement the decision.”
“We will comply with the decision and will ensure that our departments are able to do so as quickly as possible,” said Governor Bill Haslam.
When contacted shortly after the Supreme Court announced its decision, the Sevier County Clerk’s office said it was waiting for marriage license software to be updated to accommodate same-sex applicants, and by late afternoon said it was ready to issue all licenses.
See Marriage Requirements and Sevier County Clerk office locations for Marriage Licenses
“Today we celebrate history in the making with this momentous win for freedom, equality, inclusion and, above all, love,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. “The Supreme Court’s decision ensures that loving, committed same-sex couples in Tennessee and nationwide who want to build and share a life together will be treated with the same respect and dignity as everyone else. Marriage is a basic freedom that should not be denied to anyone—and today, freedom means freedom for everyone.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee plans to honor the Tennessee plaintiffs and attorneys involved in marriage equality case at its Bill of Rights Celebration in Nashville on September 30, 2015.
The Supreme Court decision may bring an economic boon for wedding chapels in Sevier County. Gatlinburg already hosts more weddings than any other city besides Las Vegas and a quick search shows at least one Gatlinburg chapel has updated their website to include information for same-sex wedding packages.
The decision does not require churches, synagogues or other religious institutions, or their clergy, to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. Kennedy affirmed the court’s decision in no way impinges on the rights of people or religious organizations who may be against same-sex marriage.
Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex. – Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, majority opinion in Overgefell v. Hodges
Religious organizations and their clergy will decide for themselves if they will perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex members of their congregation.
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued this statement following today’s Supreme Court ruling:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. [1Corinthians 13:4-8]
I rejoice that the Supreme Court has opened the way for the love of two people to be recognized by all the states of this Union, and that the Court has recognized that it is this enduring, humble love that extends beyond the grave that is to be treasured by society wherever it exists. Our society will be enriched by the public recognition of such enduring faithful love in families headed by two men or two women as well as by a woman and a man. The children of this land will be stronger when they grow up in families that cannot be unmade by prejudice or discrimination. May love endure and flourish wherever it is to be found.