Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has announced his support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, making him the first Tennessee mayor to back such unions.

“I believe that all people should be treated fairly and equally and that their individual dignity should be respected,” Dean said in a statement. “Embracing and celebrating our growing diversity makes our city stronger. Nashville needs to continue in that direction, and it's my hope that joining this effort will help us do that.”

Dean also announced he had joined Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, a project of Freedom to Marry.

According to Freedom to Marry, the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry program now includes mayors from all 14 Southern states.

“Joining mayors across the country, Nashville's mayor today is standing up for families in his community and speaking out in support of the freedom to marry,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry. “Tennessee's denial of the freedom to marry directly harms the state's more than 10,000 same-sex couples and their loved ones, and by putting obstacles in the path of businesses and families, drags everyone down. We welcome Mayor Dean as another voice in favor of moving Tennessee, the South, and all of America to the right side of history.”