Tuesday, April 29, 2014

UPDATE: Tennessee wedding venue CHANGES POLICY!

Excellent news coming out of Tennessee this morning! After meeting with Tennessee Equality Project's Executive Director Chris Sanders yesterday, the wedding venue that I wrote about two days ago, Mint Springs Farm, has decided that they are allowing ALL couples - gay and straight - to use their facility for commitment/wedding ceremonies. From the TEP Facebook page:
"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."
Let the owners of Mint Springs Farm know that this is a welcome change in policy, a change in policy which respects the inherent dignity of ALL couples - not just heterosexual ones. Their Yelp page, Facebook page, and Nashville Wedding pages are linked.

Also,make sure to let the Tennessee Equality Project know that you appreciate their work on this issue and the other issues that LGBT Tennesseans face every day.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tennessee Venue Refuses Service To A Gay Couple Because It Would Be An Illegal Wedding.

In today's "anti-gay bigots attempting to whitewash their opposition to our families" story, a same-sex couple (who are both Iraq war veterans) in Tennessee have been denied the usage of a wedding venue - simply because they are gay. 

WSMV Nashville gives us the story:

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."
Oh, but the reasoning of the owner gets even better...
 "We are deeply sorry that a staff member of ours was unaware of our policy and truly understand the disappointment of this couple. Our employee was simply trying to be helpful to this couple who visited our venue after hours. We only do weddings at our facility. When we went into this endeavor, we knew that due to the nature of our business, this situation would arise. However, Tennessee law currently states that same-sex marriage is prohibited by the Tennessee State Constitution. Because we only host weddings, we cannot violate Tennessee law. This decision does not in any way reflect or convey any personal feelings on this matter. We wish this couple the very best."
This rationale by the owner makes absolute sense because, as we all know, the Tennessee Constitution prohibits private venues from participating - in any way shape or form - in a same-sex wedding ceremony.  

Wait...that isn't what the Tennessee Constitution says? Here is the text:
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. Any policy or law or judicial interpretation, purporting to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one man and one woman is contrary to the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable in Tennessee. If another state or foreign jurisdiction issues a license for persons to marry and if such marriage is prohibited in this state by the provisions of this section, then the marriage shall be void and unenforceable in this state.
Nowhere in the marriage discrimination amendment is there anything about private venues being prohibited from holding a same-sex wedding ceremony on their property. Methinks the owners of Mint Springs Farm are simply bigoted against same-sex people and our relationships - and tried to come up with a "reason" to deny us service. Sorry Mint Springs...but we can see through your rationale. 

If you want to leave them a polite note detailing how the TN Constitution does not prohibit them from hosting a same-sex ceremony, please do so on their Facebook page

Update: Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders has written a public letter to the owners of Mint Springs Farm...you can find it at their Facebook page, or here it is in full. 

April 27, 2014

To the Owners of Mint Springs Farm

Good morning. I saw the Channel 4 piece on your refusal to serve a same-sex couple for their upcoming commitment ceremony and wanted to offer some perspective.

You indicated that your hands are tied because of the Tennessee Constitution. The Tennessee Constitution prevents the State of Tennessee from recognizing marriages by people of the same sex. It does not in any way prevent privates businesses from holding commitment ceremonies. Numerous commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples are held in houses of worship and private establishments around the state every year.

If you wish to get legal advice on this point, we will be glad to ask some attorneys to clarify the matter for you. Since you cited the Tennessee Constitution, we can only conclude that your refusal of the same-sex couple is based solely on your misreading of the law. If it has to do with bias against same-sex couples, especially those who have served our country, then that's another matter entirely.

We call on you immediately to reach out to the couple and explain your confusion and offer them your services. A profound apology for the mistake would also add a needed dose of healing to this event.

Please, let us know whether you will serve this couple and other same-sex couples.

Gratefully yours

Chris Sanders
Executive Director
Tennessee Equality Project and Tennessee Equality Project Foundation
Update #2: Mint Springs Farm has deleted their Facebook review page - so...naturally, move over to Yelp or Perfect Wedding and let them know what you think!!
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