First same-sex marriage licenses issued in Chattanooga after Supreme Court ruling as Tenn. AG sounds off

First same-sex marriage licenses issued in Chattanooga after Supreme Court ruling as Tenn. AG sounds off

Hamilton County Clerk Bill Knowles says he will begin issuing marriage licenses immediately; Georgia AG says offices must issue licenses

June 26th, 2015 by Andy Sher, Kate Belz and Tyler Jett in Politics State

Phyllis Wood, left, and Rhiannan Pierce hold hands after becoming Hamilton County's first officially wed same-sex couple during a ceremony Friday, June 26, 2015, on the lawn of the Hamilton County Courthouse in Chattanooga, Tenn. The United States Supreme Court ruled Friday that state bans on same sex marriages were unconstitutional.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Updated at 12:07 p.m. with Bill Knowles announcement that he will immediately begin issuing marriage licenses. Updated at 12:44 p.m. with Bill Haslam's remarks.

Live Blog Live coverage of reaction to gay marriage legalization
 

NASHVILLE -- The first same-sex couple has received their marriage license in Hamilton County this afternoon, even as Tennessee's Attorney General expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court's decision Friday to strike down all bans on same-sex marriage.

"Today's United States Supreme Court decision not only changes the definition of marriage, but takes from states and their citizens the longstanding authority to vote and decide what marriage means," Slattery told reporters Friday afternoon.

"To the Tennessee citizen who asks 'Don't we get a chance to vote on this in some way?' The answer from the Supreme Court is a resounding, 'No you do not.' "For the Court to tell all Tennesseans that they have no voice, no gight to vote, on these issues is disappointing."

Still, Slattery said, the state would respect the court's decision.

Hamilton County Clerk Bill Knowles told the Times Free Press he was instructed to begin issuing marriage licenses immediately after the opinion was released.

"A public official in many instances may hold a different view regarding laws and court actions. Ours is an administrative office, and legal sources advise we don't have the ability to choose which duties to perform," Knowles said.  

Glen Fountain, who is ordained, sat in the lobby of the court house Friday afternoon, saying he was available to marry any couples that showed up. For several hours, no one showed up. But several couples arrived late afternoon before the court closed.

Rhiannan Pierce and Phyllis Wood became Chattanooga's first officially married same-sex couple. 

Still, clerks in other counties said Friday they needed more information before they could proceed.

"I'll have to find out what I'm supposed to do. I'm just trying to do it correctly," said Sequatchie County Clerk Linda Summar.

Governor Bill Haslam said in a news release, "The people of Tennessee have recently voted clearly on this issue. The Supreme Court has overturned that vote. We will comply with the decision and will ensure that our departments are able to do so as quickly as possible."

In Georgia, a member of the Administrative Office of the Courts sent all probate court judges an email at 10 a.m. Friday telling them to hold off on issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. At least for a couple hours.

But Attorney General Sam Olens has since issued a directive to all local government offices, saying they are now required to issue licenses to same-sex couples, and marriage licenses are now required and calling for agencies to "immediately review their practices."

In Dade County, Probate Court Judge Kerri Carter said at noon Friday that no gay couples had requested a license yet. But if they did, her software had been updated to print out a different description.
Instead of reading "Bride" and "Groom" where the couple would write their two names, the options now said "Applicant 1" and "Applicant 2."

Catoosa County had also not seen any gay marriage applicants as of Friday afternoon.

In Alabama, Attorney General Luther Strange acknowledged that the ruling was now the law of the land, but said he expected "the focus will now turn to the exercise of one's religious liberty."

"I will continue to defend the religious liberties of Alabamians and ensure that people and businesses honoring their religious beliefs are protected," Strange said.

In DeKalb County, Ala., Probate Judge Ronnie Osburn declined to comment on the ruling.
"He's already said he's not going to talk to anybody today," Osburn's assistant told a reporterFriday afternoon.

But minutes after the ruling around 9:30 a.m. Friday, the assistant said, a lesbian couple applied for a marriage license.

 

 


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