A sign hanging on the door to the Warren County Clerk’s Office informing visitors marriages will no longer be performed effective June 1 does not relate to a June 24 Supreme Court ruling that says states cannot ban same-sex marriage, according to County Clerk Lesa Scott.
“We started that before the Supreme Court ruling,” said Scott in denying community speculation the policy change was a reaction to the court ruling.
Scott says the policy change was made due to an abundance of couples coming from surrounding counties to get married here because their county clerks stopped offering that service and the situation became too much to handle.
“Coffee County doesn’t do it. DeKalb County doesn’t do it, and I don’t think Grundy County does it anymore,” said Scott. “Then, Rutherford County stopped doing it. Rutherford County people started coming up here. I can’t handle 900 marriages, plus all the other surrounding counties coming here. We just couldn’t handle that many marriages.”
The cost for a marriage license is $97.50. When questioned about the potential revenue loss to the county, Scott says there isn’t much because the state gets the majority of that fee and she isn’t allowed to charge couples for her services.
“The county just gets $10. The state gets the majority,” she said. “We can’t charge to perform a marriage. That’s a no-no. The Davidson County clerk got in trouble for charging couples $40. You can’t do that. He lost his job over it.”
Warren County has issued three marriage licenses to same-sex couples and there are two confirmed marriages.
“We’ve issued three,” said Scott. “I know two of them have gotten married. I don’t know about the third. They just came in Monday (June 8) and got theirs.”
The ruling by the Supreme Court came after it reviewed cases from four states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. A movie is in the works by 20th Century Fox on the decision. The film studio has obtained the life rights to James Obergefell, the plaintiff in the Ohio case and the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court fight, and his lawyer, Al Gerhardstein.
Obergefell filed suit against the state of Ohio when it wouldn’t recognize his marriage to his terminally ill husband, John Arthur. In attendance when the Supreme Court decision was handed down, Obergefell walked out of the courtroom, held up a photo of his late spouse and said the ruling establishes that “our love is equal.” He added, “This is for you, John.”
Obergefell is also planning to write a book about his experience with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Debbie Cenziper.