SIGNS ON DISPLAY
* "Fix marriage, not gays!"
* "We don't vote against your marriage"
* "If you knew my girlfriend, you'd want to marry her, too"
* "The biggest threat to marriage is divorce, not gay people"
When about 16 people stepped into the Hamilton County clerk's courthouse office late Tuesday morning to get marriage licenses, officials turned them away for one reason: They were same-sex couples.
"Under Tennessee law, we cannot issue you a license," Deputy Clerk Robbin Dodd told the group.
Ashley Tingey, one of the organizers of the group that came to the courthouse to protest in favor of gay marriage, said she understood why the officials had to deny her and others' licenses.
"It's the law," she said. "It's not their fault at all."
Tennessee law stipulates that "the historical institution and legal contract solemnizing the relationship of one man and one woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state."
Soon after being turned down, the group of gay and straight protesters was out by Georgia Avenue, waving protest signs.
Abby Gengozian, one of the straight protesters, said she wanted her boyfriend there to help make her point.
"I can't marry her, but I can marry him," she said.
David Shelley, director of church relations for the Tennessee Family Action Council, said his group believes marriage is "a God-given union between man and woman."
"It is not in the best interest of Tennessee to change the definition of marriage," he said.
Dr. Shelley noted that 81 percent of Tennesseans voted in 2006 in favor of a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage in the state.
Still, Andy Pyburn, another organizer of Tuesday's protest, said same-sex couples should get the same rights as straight couples.
"It shouldn't be out of the norm for someone to come here and ask for a marriage license," he said. "People of the same gender, same sex, it shouldn't matter, because love is love."