Marriage equality advocates in Tennessee are preparing to sue state officials for refusing to follow name-change requests for same-sex couples married out of state, the Nashville Tennessean reported on Saturday.
“The system we have is untenable because couples are changing all kinds of other federal documents and being given inconsistent guidance in Tennessee,” Tennessee Equality Project head Chris Sanders told the Tennessean. “The short-term fix is for couples to go to court to get a name change. And the longer-term fix is for us to go to court and challenge the marriage amendment, which is what we’re doing.”
Same-sex marriage was banned in the state with the passage of the Tennessee Marriage Protection Amendment in 2006. The law also renders marriages performed in other states “void and unenforceable,” allowing Tennessee to side-step the Supreme Court decisions in June 2013 scuttling both the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.
“I went into Cookeville for my new Social Security card using my marriage certificate, and they said I should have it in four days to two weeks,” Byrdstown resident Neil Stovall told the Tennessean. “But what about the name on my driver’s license? My concealed handgun carry permit? To me, they’re denying me my constitutional right to happiness. The state government seems to have a problem with it when no one else does.”
Judge Harold Wimberly, who presides over the Circuit Court in Knox County, suggested to the Tennessean that while he has not encountered a surge in requests for name changes since the high court’s rulings, the process itself is relatively simple.
“Name changes are no burden on us,” he said to the Tennessean, explaining that it costs between $150 and $200 for people representing themselves in court. “Of all the things (applicants) consider, the biggest thing to consider is that you’ll have to pay money.”
But one resident, Jeremy May of Oak Ridge, told the Tennessean that despite paying $179.50 to file the necessary paperwork and obtaining a court order, he was almost rebuffed by an employee at a nearby driver’s license bureau before the employee was corrected.
[Same-sex couple image via Shutterstock]