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Tennessee Wedding Venue That Turned Away Iraqi War Veteran Couple Does About-Face on Gay Policy

Warvets

Yesterday we reported that Mint Springs Farm, a wedding venue in Tennessee, had turned away a gay Iraqi war veteran couple of nine years who were planning a commitment ceremony there.

Today comes word that the venue has changed its policy.

Via the Tennessee Equality Project:

"As owners of Mint Springs farm we have had time to regroup and reflect. We have reached out to the community and started a dialogue with Tennessee Equality Project. The Executive Director, Chris Sanders was able to meet with us. In order to move forward we have decided to change our policy. We will offer commitment ceremonies for any future couples that have a legal license from other states or countries. We also want to broaden this offer to include couples who simply want a commitment ceremony with no intention of obtaining legal marriage license. This will be our policy moving forward, it will remain true to all future prospective clients."


Tuesday Speed Read: Chuck Hagel, Human Rights Charter, North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Boy Scouts

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

DOD SIGNS MORE INCLUSIVE CHARTER: Hagel

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel signed a “Human Goals Charter” Monday. “By signing this charter today,” said Hagel during the ceremony, “DOD’s civilian and military leaders commit ourselves – all of us – to making DOD a model for equal opportunity and [fair treatment] for all. …As the charter says, we will continue striving to make military service a model – a model of equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin.” SPART*A, an LGBT military organization, called the addition of “sexual orientation” to the charter a welcome “symbolic gesture” but only a “first step.” "The next logical step,” said SPART*A Policy Director Allyson Robinson, “is to amend related DoD directives to add sexual orientation to military equal opportunity and non-discrimination policies; only then will gay and lesbian service members be protected.” SPART*A noted that sexual orientation was added to the Human Goals Charter for DOD’s civilian force in 1998.

CHURCH CHALLENGE: Ucc

In a first of its kind lawsuit, a group of ministers filed a complaint in federal court Monday against North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, saying that the law’s penalties against clergy who conduct ceremonies for same-sex marriages violates their free exercise of religion. The lawsuit, United Church of Christ v. Cooper, was organized by the United Church of Christ and filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in Charlotte. Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, called the lawsuit “particularly promising” because North Carolina law makes it a misdemeanor for a “minister, officer or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage” under North Carolina law to marry a couple without them having obtained a marriage license, which same-sex couples cannot obtain from the state.

N.C. AG OPPOSES RELIEF: R_cooper

The Democratic attorney general of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, filed a brief in another marriage equality lawsuit Monday, opposing a request to recognize a lesbian couple’s marriage in Massachusetts on an expedited basis to secure health coverage for their sick child. In the ACLU-led lawsuit, Fisher-Borne v. Smith, Cooper said the potential harm for the family is “outweighed by the harm to the public if State officials are enjoined from enforcing the democratically ratified State laws and Constitution.”

APPEALS COURT GRANTS STAY:

A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals April 5 granted Tennessee’s request for a stay of a district court judge’s ruling. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger denied the request for a stay on a narrow and temporary order she issued in Tanco v. Haslam in March requiring the state to recognize the marriage licenses of three same-sex couples who obtained marriage licenses out of state. The panel granted the stay and ordered that a hearing by a panel of the appeals court should be scheduled “without delay” to hear the merits of the state’s appeal.

AND ‘NO’ TO SKIPPING A STEP:

The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals also issued an order Monday, denying the state of Michigan’s request to skip over a three-judge panel and go straight to the full appeals court with its appeal of a district court ruling that its ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. The one-page order stated simply that “no judge of this court” voted to send the case directly to the full bench.

BOSTON GLOBE ON BOYS SCOUTS:

A Boston Globe editorial Monday characterized the Boy Scouts of America policy banning gay scout leaders as “stuck in the past” and said “the organization itself exists in a 1950s time warp….[where] there are no merit badges for inclusiveness….”

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Tennessee Venue Tells Gay Iraq War Vets to Go Elsewhere for Their Commitment Ceremony: VIDEO

Warvets

Mint Springs Farm, a private Nolensville, Tennessee wedding venue, told Anthony Wilfert and Brian Blas, Iraq war veterans and a couple of nine years, that they could hold a commitment ceremony there and then canceled on them two days later, WSMV reports:

Wilfert and Brian Blas became a couple nine years ago while serving with Fort Campbell.

"We served under Don't Ask, Don't Tell," said Wilfert.

Looking for a place to hold a commitment ceremony, Wilfert and Blas said an employee took them on a tour of Mint Springs Farm where they believed the rustic charm and fences along winding roads would be the perfect backdrop. The website even says, 'Mint Springs Farm is an all-inclusive venue.'

"I made it clear from the get-go that it was a same-sex ceremony," said Wilfert. "He explicitly made it clear that it was not an issue, that they would host that type of ceremony."

Wilfert and Blas said days after two employees told them it'd be fine to hold their ceremony at the venue, they got an e-mail from an owner at Mint Springs Farm reading, "Unfortunately, until same sex marriage is legal in the state of Tennesse, we cannot participate in this ceremony at our venue. I wish we could help, I truly do, but our hands are tied in this situation."

Watch WSMV's report, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Tennessee Venue Tells Gay Iraq War Vets to Go Elsewhere for Their Commitment Ceremony: VIDEO" »


Federal Judge Refuses to Stay Ruling Ordering Tennessee to Recognize Marriages of Gay Plaintiffs During Court Challenge

Two weeks ago Towleroad reported on U.S. District Judge's Aleta Trauger's ruling ordering Tennessee to recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples challenging the state's ban on gay marriage while the case is underway.

TN_TancoJestyThe Attorney General appealed the ruling but now Trauger has denied that request, Buzzfeed reports:

Trauger on Thursday denied that request, concluding:

The court finds that all four factors weigh against a stay and in favor of continuing enforcement of the Preliminary Injunction. Even if the court were to accept that there is arguably a “serious question” about the merits of its constitutional analysis, the defendants have not even approached their burden to show “irreparable harm that decidedly outweighs the harm that will be inflicted on others if a stay is granted.”

Trauger's ruling appeals to only the three couples involved in the case.


Tennessee to Appeal Ruling Ordering it to Recognize Marriages of Gay Plaintiffs During Court Challenge

Tennessee's Attorney General will appeal a ruling issued last week ordering the state to recognize the marriages of three gay couples while a court challenge proceeds, the Tennesseean reports:

TN_TancoJestyOn Friday, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger issued a preliminary injunction allowing the marriage of three same-sex couples -- plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit -- to be recognized as their lawsuit against Gov. Bill Haslam and other state officials progressed.

In its argument, the AG's office points to a stay issued in a similar same-sex marriage ruling in Utah, plus says it won't irreparably harm the couples not to be recognized. The plaintiffs' attorneys particularly pointed to the plaintiffs Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty, who are expecting a child next week and fear the anti-recognition law could be used to deny Jesty access to her wife and child.

The couple should have used legal documents such as powers of attorney and "advanced (sic) directives" to protect themselves, the appeal says.

It also claims the state of Tennessee will be harmed by the ruling because it alters the status quo.

Read more about the case here.


Federal Court Says Tennessee Must Recognize Marriages of Gay Plaintiffs While Legal Challenge Proceeds

A U.S. District Court in Nashville today said that Tennessee officials must recognize the marriages of three gay couples who married in other states while their legal challenge, filed in October, proceeds.

Mansell_espejoNCLR reports, via press release:

Tennessee now joins several other states—including Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky, and Texas—in which a federal court has ruled that states must allow same-sex couples to marry or recognize the marriages of couples who married in other states since the Supreme Court’s ruling last June requiring the federal government to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. Every federal court to have considered such a challenge since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in United States v. Windsor has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

In her ruling today, U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger took note of these earlier decisions, writing: “In light of this rising tide of persuasive post-Windsor federal caselaw, it is no leap to conclude that the plaintiffs here are likely to succeed in their challenge to Tennessee’s Anti-Recognition Laws.”

TennesseeThe couples filed a federal lawsuit on October 21, 2013 alleging that Tennessee’s failure to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples violates the federal Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process and the constitutionally protected right to travel between and move to other states. The couples filed a motion in November 2013 to seek immediate protection while their case proceeds. In granting that motion today, Judge Trauger held that Tennessee’s laws prohibiting the state from acknowledging the equal dignity of the married couples’ relationships and families likely would cause them significant and irreparable harm, including because one of the couples is expecting a baby within days and urgently needs the legal protection and security of having both partners recognized as legal parents, as other married couples in Tennessee are recognized.

The couples are Dr. Valeria Tanco and Dr. Sophy Jesty of Knoxville; Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe and Thom Kostura of Memphis; and Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo of Franklin.

The couples are represented by attorneys Abby R. Rubenfeld of Nashville, William Harbison, Scott Hickman, Phil Cramer, and John Farringer of the law firm of Sherrard & Roe in Nashville, Maureen T. Holland of Memphis, Regina Lambert of Knoxville, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Read more about the case HERE.


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