After the Honeymoon

marriage equality graphic lisa howe for web.jpg

Since the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality, the LGBT Chamber has been receiving many calls and e-mails asking for recommendations for venues, caterers, and people willing to officiate same-sex weddings. The Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce is proud to be a trusted source to help prospective couples identify, local LGBT-friendly wedding vendors.

We have seen our membership in the wedding vendor category more than double since May. We are working with The Perfect Wedding Guide to co-host two mock weddings (a female couple and a male couple) on August 26th at Hotel Indigo.

In addition to Hotel Indigo and the Perfect Wedding Guide, some of the more intentional marketing efforts we’ve seen from our members since June 26th were:

  • The Freedom to Wed event at Scarritt-Bennett Center, which took place on July 5th
  • OZ Arts Nashville turned their logo rainbow colors on June 26th. Nothing says come get married at our venue like a rainbow logo.
  • Baker Donelson and other members will present information about new tax implications, HR policies and best practices, social security, and more.

The LGBT Chamber and our members are prepared to educate, inform, and help individuals, organizations, and companies prepare for any changes in taxation, transition plans, benefits, and more. The Social Security Administration contacted the LGBT Chamber on Monday, June 29th to explain they will be in full compliance, but they need a week or two to update their systems. We have seen local counties having to update their systems and forms, and we stand ready to assist people going forward.

I was impressed with the speed at which most Tennessee counties started issuing marriage licenses, with a little help from TEP, I’m sure. Even though the Attorney General fought to the bitter end, he and Governor Haslam complied with the Supreme Court ruling within hours, unlike their peers in other affected states. It was just a matter of days before State employees received a notice that they had 60 days to add their same-sex spouse to their benefits plan.

Still, before we get too excited, there is some less happy news: the weddings have barely begun but the honeymoon is over! Tennessee State employees are not protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. An employee of the State could add their same-sex spouse to their benefits and then be fired for the sole reason of having a same-sex spouse.

Tennessee discriminates in its supply chain and allows all of its cities and contractors to deny hard-working, tax-paying LGBT business owners access to a level playing field. Judge Carol McCoy dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims, in Howe vs. Haslam, that HB600 is unconstitutional. At least she did sign an order that HB600 does not apply to local Educational Agencies.

If a company offers health benefits to spouses, they will have to offer the same benefits to same-sex spouses. However, companies that are self-insured, which means they assume the insurance risks for their own employees, a common practice among large companies, aren’t under the same legal constraints. There is technically no legal requirement that a self-insured company has to include a same-sex spouse. Companies who self-insure but deny benefits to same-sex spouses will, however, be vulnerable to discrimination suits.

In Tennessee, we will probably have unnecessary debate and proposed legislation, like the Pastoral Protection Act and a new call to impeach Governor Haslam for abiding by the Supreme Court ruling. There will be time, money, and energy spent in the upcoming legislative session, when we will likely see legislation proposed that allows businesses to deny services to LGBT people based on their owners’ deeply held religious beliefs. We fully expect that type of bill to be a response to same-sex marriage.

Just as we had a patchwork of laws when the federal government and some, but not all, states recognized marriage, we will continue to have a patchwork of laws until every LGBT American citizen is protected from discrimination in employment, housing, and access to public accommodations. While I believe the LGBT community, advocacy organizations, businesses, and city and business leaders will be prepared to combat the backlash that is probably coming, the most effective way for individual LGBT people and their families to respond is to speak with their money. They can direct their business to those who stand with them, using the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce as a source for all of their business referrals.




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