Same-sex couples wed as marriages get underway in Tennessee

Sophy Jesty, left, and Valeria Tanco, who were plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that guarantees a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage, address the media at University of Tennessee College of Law Friday, June 26, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn.

Sophy Jesty, left, and Valeria Tanco, who were plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that guarantees a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage, address the media at University of Tennessee College of Law Friday, June 26, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. Adam Lau, Knoxville News Sentinel via AP

Sophy Jesty, left, and Valeria Tanco, who were plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that guarantees a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage, address the media at University of Tennessee College of Law Friday, June 26, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. Adam Lau, Knoxville News Sentinel via AP

Sophy Jesty, left, and Valeria Tanco, who were the lead plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that guarantees a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage, address the media at University of Tennessee College of Law Friday, June 26, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn.

Updated: 7:30 p.m. CDT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nikki von Haeger and Lauren Mesnard became the first same-sex couple to marry in Nashville after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the state’s gay marriage ban Friday.

The Davidson County Clerk’s Office began issuing marriage licenses around noon, and the couple was married in the office. They said they would have a ceremony with their families in a couple of months and then go on their honeymoon.

Von Haeger, who is 26 and works in a restaurant, told a reporter, “I’m just really excited to be able to marry the person I love.”

Mesnard is 25 and works for FedEx. After the ceremony she said, “Now it’s not like a special occasion to be normal.”

Same-sex couples across the state were going to county clerks’ offices to get marriage licenses on what many were calling “day one.”

In Tennessee, marriage between partners of the same gender was prohibited by state law and by a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2006.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery said his office will “take the necessary steps” to implement the Supreme Court’s decision.

At the same time, he expressed strong opposition to the ruling, saying the court’s decision “not only changes the definition of marriage but takes from the states and their citizens the longstanding authority to vote and decide what marriage means.”

“Today, the Court redefined marriage by litigation, rather than by democracy,” said Slatery. “That said … it’s a decision by the highest court, and we respect the decision.”

In Memphis, 38-year-old Marci Charles, and 29-year-old Anna D’Olive, were among the first same-sex couples to get marriage licenses Friday.

Charles said they had a marriage ceremony two years ago on Memphis but now they are going to “make it legal.”

“It’s such a weight lifted off of us” Charles said of the ruling. “I’m jittery. I’m excited. I can’t believe it.”

Charles said the couple plans to move to Austin, Texas, soon, but they are glad they could get their license in Memphis, where Martin Luther King Jr. fought for equal rights.

“Doing it in a city like this, where Dr. King fought, is important to me.”

The three couples who sued Tennessee two years ago to have their out-of-state marriages recognized said they were overwhelmed by all that was happening after the court ruled in their favor.

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Valeria Tanco joked at a Knoxville news conference about crashing some of the weddings that were starting to happen around the state.

Her wife, Sophy Jesty, spoke of a feeling of immense relief at the decision.

“It feels to me like a huge weight has been lifted from our relationship. I feel free today, the most free I’ve ever felt.”

Tanco said they are especially happy their 15-month old daughter will grow up not feeling that her parents are different from anyone else’s.

“There are no words to know that Emilia has legal parents now and that if she were ever to find herself in a situation where she lost one of us, she would always have the other,” Tanco said.

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