TN officials waiting for gay marriage ruling before action - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

TN officials waiting for gay marriage ruling before action

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Pastor Greg Bullard is shown outside his chapel in Madison, TN. Bullard intends to perform same-sex weddings in the chapel if the U.S. Supreme Court lifts the state's gay marriage ban. AP Photo Pastor Greg Bullard is shown outside his chapel in Madison, TN. Bullard intends to perform same-sex weddings in the chapel if the U.S. Supreme Court lifts the state's gay marriage ban. AP Photo

By TRAVIS LOLLER, Associated Press

NASHVILLE (AP) - In Tennessee, state and local officials say they are taking a wait-and-see approach to the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn the state's ban on gay marriage.

Asked recently about any preparation, Gov. Bill Haslam said "discussions have been happening" at the state Attorney General's office and the various departments. But he said until the ruling comes down, "it's hard to say what the 'ifs' and 'buts' are."

County clerks' offices are where residents go for marriage certificates, but it is not clear how soon they will begin issuing certificates to gay couples if the ban is overturned.

Wayne Mashburn, president of the Tennessee County Clerks Association, said the clerks will take their direction from the County Officials Association of Tennessee. The director of that association, Jay West, would say only that they are "first waiting to see what the Supreme Court decision is."

The marriage certificates themselves, with their "bride" and "groom" designations are issued by the state Health Department. Spokesman Woody McMillin said the department's attorney is reaching out to the Social Security Administration to ask about possible changes to the form. New forms will be printed if they are needed, but they are not being prepared in advance.

Driver's license centers will also be affected if the ban is overturned. Currently, gay couples married in other states cannot get their names changed on their licenses by showing marriage certificates because Tennessee does not recognize those marriages.

Department of Safety spokeswoman Dalya Qualls said in an email that "once the Supreme Court decision is released the department will consult with staff attorneys and the Attorney General's office on any action that may need to be taken."

Meanwhile, many same-sex couples are hoping to get help right away.

Dakerri Barber-Rhone married her wife in Washington D.C. in 2012 but hasn't been able to change her name on her Tennessee driver's license.

"I absolutely was going to try to go down on day one and try to get it changed," Barber-Rhone said.

The Tennessee Equality Project is lining up couples who hope to get married with a plan of action that includes calling county clerks around the state to find out where marriage certificates are being issued. The group's website includes a list of officiants willing to perform the ceremonies.

One of those is Pastor Greg Bullard. It is not known what day the justices will rule, only that it will be before the end of the month, so Bullard has set aside July 3 to perform as many weddings as time allows.

Bullard said the ceremonies will be free and include photographs and flowers.

"It's our gift to the LGBT community," he said, using a common acronym meaning "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender."

"We just want to be able to help people who love each other," Bullard said, "because where love is, God is."

Bleu Copas and his partner, who live outside of Knoxville in the Powell community, plan to be one of those couples. Copas and his partner both grew up in Tennessee, so "it's been really important with me and my partner to wait until it's allowed in Tennessee," he said.

If the Supreme Court does not overturn the ban?

"We'll cancel it," Copas said.

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