Where We Walk

11667496_574037432739154_2113217135067490748_nWhen John and I, Heather and her fiance attended the Marriage Equality Celebration in Knoxville, TN, we were told about a great new effort to bring celebration to marriage equality. Started by a handful of amazing people, the movement is to draw a heart on the sidewalk with you and your loved one’s name in it in chalk!

From their Facebook page:

Celebrate the Supreme Court Marriage Equality ruling by chalking a heart on public a sidewalk and placing your same sex couple name inside the heart. Tag your location and share on Facebook!

What a great thing to do! Knowing that marriage equality has come to the entire country…where we walk!

Join the movement! Check out their Facebook profile…like it and post your photo!!

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Knoxvillians Celebrate Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Image - McCord Pagan / Knoxville Mercury

Image – McCord Pagan / Knoxville Mercury

The Knoxville Mercury wrote an awesome article about the rally held in Knoxville in celebration of the nationwide passing of same-sex marriage. I was interviewed for this article, as well, and I wanted to share with you.

Knoxvillians Celebrate Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

In News by McCord Pagan / June 27, 2015

“I’d like to introduce my husband,” said Jon Coffee, as his new spouse, Keith Swafford, swung his hands up in the air.

The first gay couple to get married in Knox County, Coffee and Swafford thanked the crowd of about 400 at the Tennessee Amphitheater Friday evening for their support in the fight for marriage equality.

“I’m just so damn happy,” Coffee said to another round of cheers.

Friday evening, supporters of marriage equality gathered at the amphitheater at World’s Fair Park less than nine hours after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges. The court ruling struck down Tennessee’s 9-year-old ban on gay marriage and ended restrictions in 14 other states, opening the legal door for couples like Coffee and Swafford to be married for the first time, and allowing recognition for existing marriages like those between Sophy Jesty and her wife, Valeria Tanco.

Jesty and Tanco were plaintiffs in the Tanco v. Haslam court case that challenged Tennessee to recognize their marriage and which was later consolidated with three similar cases and argued before the Supreme Court.

On Friday at the celebration, Jesty and Tanco were greeted with a standing ovation by the crowd for their successful legal fight.

After 20 months of court battles, finally having the government recognize her marriage and her motherhood to her daughter is an immense relief, says Jesty.

“It’s a weight that we didn’t even realize how heavy it was until it was gone,” she says. “I’m not quite sure there are any words for it.

“There’s no one that is going to tell me that I’m not Amelia’s parent anymore.”

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, the only Tennessee mayor to publicly support gay marriage, greeted Tanco and Jesty at the celebration, saying that her city “is too busy to hate.”

Nine years ago, Tennessee passed a state constitutional amendment refusing to recognize same sex marriage, making Friday a day of validation for those already married in another state but whose union will finally be recognized by the state.

Joie Mayfield, who married his husband, John Stewart, in Maryland about two years ago, says his love is no different from any anyone else’s.

“We’re no longer second-class,” he says, “We’re just like everyone else—we just have the same genitalia.”

Mayfield says along with recognition by the government, the tide is turning in public support for marriage equality. While legal recognition of his marriage is important, Mayfield says support by non-gays for marriage equality goes a long way towards feeling accepted by society.

“It’s easy for gay people to look at each other and say, yay we did it,” he says. “But for a straight person to say, yay, you did it, that’s head over heels exciting.

“There was someone I saw here, I’ve gone to school with him since fourth grade. He’s not gay, but he just came to show support. And that’s so moving, to see validation from other people.”

Gwen Schablik, committee chair for the Tennessee Equality Project, the organization that sponsored Friday’s event, says Tennessee couples in gay marriages can now enjoy Social Security benefits, health insurance through their spouse’s job, and tax benefits.

While marriage equality is now enshrined in law, there is still more work to be done in the fight for LGBT+ rights, Mayfield says.

“We can still be fired for who we are,” he says, “We’re not a protected class. We can still be denied housing just for who we love.”

Along with protection for transgendered people, bullying is another area in which there is much work left to be done, Schablik says.

“School should be a safe and welcoming place,” she says, “Forty percent of LGBT youth are harassed because of their sexual orientation, because of their gender identity or maybe because they have family that is LGBT.”

Friday’s ruling by the Supreme Court is a long time coming for Mayfield, who says he felt discriminated by Tennessee’s ban on same sex marriage.

When Mayfield and Stewart returned home as a married couple, he says the state treated them merely as roommates rather than an actual couple.

“When I finally found the person I want to spend the rest of my life, for the state to tell me ‘No, you can’t do that,’ you get angry,” Mayfield says.

However, the decision on Friday that forces Tennessee to recognize Mayfield’s and Stewart’s marriage is an immense relief to the couple.

“To hear the government recognize you, that it’s not going to discriminate because of who you love, words can’t express it,” he says.

Quote Series No. 2

Here is the second of a “Quote Series” we are making to celebrate the lifting of the ban on same-sex marriages!!

This one celebrates the issuing of the very first marriage license to a same-sex couple in Sevier County, Tennessee. These two ladies are awesome. Congratulations, Heather Brown and Janice Perkins!!!

quote-2-heather

Quote Series No. 1

In celebration of the passing of nationwide same-sex marriage, we are creating these quote graphics featuring local heroes.

The first one features the two editors of Modern Day Stonewall, Joie and John Mayfield-Stewart. They were legally married on September 13, 2013, but returned home to Tennessee to find that it wasn’t recognized…until yesterday.

joiequote

Victory!!!

  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of love today in the case of Obergefell v Hodges. Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land!!

The final paragraph of Justice Anthony Kennedy is worthy of rereading over and over: 

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embod- ies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people be- come something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. 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 con- demned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civiliza- tion’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth
Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.

Awesome. Love wins!

Local Heroes

trans+in+east+tennessee

Source: WVLT

Yesterday on our local CBS affiliate, WVLT, there was a story about two transgender men in the Knoxville area. These men were brave to tell their story on the news in a place like we live. In the comments on WVLT’s facebook post for the report, there was support and opposition. Among the opposition, they were called “Freaks” and was held in comtempt of “God’s Word.” I was appalled of the lack of respect for the trans* community. With Caitlyn Jenner’s cover on Vanity Fair, the nation is talking about transgender issues, either positively or negatively.

The gentleman in the report were so courageous to tell their story and I’m happy to know there is continuing dialogue about this serious issue.

Here’s a link to the post.

#LoveCantWait

IMG_1178The Human Rights Campaign is gearing up for the decision from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage. They are offering a chance to sign a petition saying you support same-sex marriage. Love Can’t Wait…please sign this petition and stand on the right side of history!

Click here to sign the petition!