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WC Clerk ready to OK same-sex marriage licenses

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Wilson County Courthouse

UPDATED, Friday, June 26, at 1:15 p.m. -- Wilson County Clerk's Office Supervisor Scott Goodall said their office is now ready to process same-sex marriage licenses.

"Ours is up and running good," he said referring to the State of Tennessee's marriage license generating software.

"On the print out, it still needs to be updated, but they said it will take a while before that's ready. We just have to cross out 'bride and groom' and write 'applicant 1 and applicant 2.'"

As of early this afternoon, there had been no gay or lesbian couples that have applied, he added.

'Flip of a switch' should make it possible

Wilson County Clerk Jim Goodall says he is waiting on the state's attorney general and a change in the state's software before his office will be able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"If everything is legal, we'll be ready to go," Goodall said Friday morning after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lifted the state's ban on same-sex marriages.

The court ruled 5-4 to overturn the Tennessee ban, as well as three other states, on same-sex marriages. By lifting the ban, the court has essentially made same-sex marriage legal in Tennessee.

Goodall said there have been rumors that other counties are ready to start issuing licenses to same-sex couples, but said they are just that, rumors.

"We can't do it (issue same-sex marriage licenses) just yet, nobody can (in Tennessee)," Goodall added.

Wilson County Clerk's Office Supervisor Scott Goodall agreed with the clerk in stating that the biggest reason the clerk's office cannot issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples is because "the software can't do it right now. It's a part of the vital records form," that does not permit two people of the same sex to be joined in marriage.

"I've heard from a technical supervisor that it is just the flip of a switch," he said. "But we are also waiting on the Attorney General (Herbert Slattery III)'s press conference at 2 p.m. when he will tell us exactly what to do."

With that press conference and the change to the state's computer program, same-sex marriage licenses could be available in Wilson County as early as this afternoon.

Scott Goodall said that the clerk's office had received "at least three or four phone calls" inquiring about Wilson County's ability to issue the licenses to same-sex couples. Most of them were soon after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, and he was not sure if they were local couples inquiring personally or simply calls inquiring about how the county was handling the ruling.

Wilson County Clerk Jim Goodall said that his office at the Wilson County Courthouse had received at least one call, as well.

"We're just waiting on the go-ahead right now," the Clerk Goodall added. "I'm not sure if the ruling takes immediate effect or not."

The court's ruling was in response to appeal of three cases of same-sex couples who were married in other states and moved to Tennessee. All three were originally defeated in the state supreme court.

And according to the U.S. Supreme Court's Friday ruling, the state must also recognize same-sex marriages issued out of state.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family," he wrote. "In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

Although it passed, the margin was slim with four justices dissenting, led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

"The Court takes the extraordinary step of ordering every State to license and recognize same-sex marriage," Roberts wrote. "Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration. But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority's approach is deeply disheartening. Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens--through the democratic process--to adopt their view. That ends today. Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept."

To read the full U.S. Supreme Court ruling, go to

Managing Editor Zack Owensby may be contacted at

Tenn. Reps. Introduce Pastor Protection Bill In Reaction To SCOTUS Gay Marriage Ruling

On Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of gay marriage. In reaction to that decision, Tennessee State Representative Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) announced that he is working to draft the "Tennessee Pastor Protection Act" along with State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) as the primary co-sponsor.

"It comes as no surprise that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage. I have had multiple constituents concerned with how the ruling may impact their church and their religious beliefs. If the issue is truly about equality of civil liberties and benefits, then this ruling should have minimal legal impact on churches," said Terry. "However, if the issue and the cause is about redefining marriage to require others to change their deeply held religious beliefs, then the concerns of many will be valid."

The bill will be designed to protect all religious clergy from performing same sex marriages, as well as, providing legal protection from being forced to perform same sex marriages on church property.

"To my friends of faith, to those who endear the principles of social conservatism, and to those who ascribe to the original intent of the ‪Tenth Amendment, we must never give up," declared Holt. "The Court has made it clear that they have no intention to uphold the principles of separation of power. It's more important now than ever that we stand and resist the abuse of our own government and that is exactly what I plan to do by lobbying for the Pastor Protection Act with Rep. Terry."

Holt says he has no plans to recognize the Court's ruling as being valid. "God is the ultimate Supreme Court and he has spoken. Marriage is between one man, and one woman," said Holt.

Terry worries that the ruling will set off a chain reaction in judicial activism.

"The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Article 1 Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution states that personal freedom of religion is protected and that no human authority can interfere in the rights of conscience," noted Terry. "Under normal circumstances, I would expect the Court to honor the Constitution of the United States and Tennessee, but, as recently confirmed by activist judges, we no longer are under normal circumstances."

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Jim Goodall, marriage, same-sex marriage, Wilson County, Wilson County Clerk, Wilson County Courthouse
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