Gay activists in Tennessee are preparing to challenge the state's
laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.
At least four gay couples on Wednesday applied for marriage
licenses in three of the state's most populous counties, Davidson,
Wilson and Shelby, and were told that Tennessee law doesn't recognize
such unions. (Video of one couple making their request is embedded on
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Speaking to reporters afterward, Chris Sanders, executive director
of the Tennessee Equality Project, said that applying for the
licenses – and being denied – was a first step in preparing a
challenge to the law.
“It's going to require a court challenge,” Sanders
said. “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.”
A constitutional amendment defining marriage as a heterosexual
union and strengthening existing statutes to the same effect was
approved by an overwhelming majority (81%) of voters in 2006.
Sanders added that recent rulings in Ohio and Michigan gave him
reasons to hope.
“Both Ohio and Michigan are in the 6th Circuit of the
U.S. Court of Appeals, just like Tennessee,” he
said. “So we may get good precedent in our circuit and we may
have marriage equality sooner than we think.”