Knoxville couples, lawmakers speak out on same-sex marriage

Knoxville couples, lawmakers and pastors speak out on same-sex marriage ruling

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Gwen Castro and Erin Schablik married in a ceremony in Central Park in May. Gwen Castro and Erin Schablik married in a ceremony in Central Park in May.
"It's amazing because now federally, we have recognition. This coming year, from what I'm understanding, we could file taxes jointly because we were married this year," Castro said. "It's amazing because now federally, we have recognition. This coming year, from what I'm understanding, we could file taxes jointly because we were married this year," Castro said.
"Same sex marriage is unbiblical and we're not supporting same sex marriage as a church, as a body of believers," said senior pastor Dr. Valentino J. McNeal. "Same sex marriage is unbiblical and we're not supporting same sex marriage as a church, as a body of believers," said senior pastor Dr. Valentino J. McNeal.
"Tennessee recognizes in its constitution that marriage is between a man and a woman and the people voted by over 80 percent to say that is what marriage has always been and that's what Tennessee wants it to be," Rep. Bill Dunn said. "Tennessee recognizes in its constitution that marriage is between a man and a woman and the people voted by over 80 percent to say that is what marriage has always been and that's what Tennessee wants it to be," Rep. Bill Dunn said.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - There were major victories for supporters of gay rights Wednesday. 

The Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act saying it violates gays' equal protection rights under the law. The ruling clears the way for legally married same-sex couples to receive federal benefits.

The vote was divided along ideological lines, 5 to 4. 

In a separate decision, the justices cleared the way for legal same-sex marriage in California by refusing to rule on the substance of a challenge to Prop 8.

So what does this mean here in Tennessee, where voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment in 2006 defining marriage as only between a man and a woman?

"I think people should remember that the case does not affect in any way a key tenant of U.S. family law which is to give states the right to regulate and define marriage. That remains untouched," said LMU assistant law professor Stephen Wilks.

He said the ruling does, however, give federal benefits to same sex couples in Tennessee who were legally married in another state.

Gwen Castro married her girlfriend of four and a half years, Erin Schablik, last month in New York's Central Park.

"It wasn't until we said 'I do' that something does click inside of you. I noticed that just a few minutes after. It was like, whoa, we are married. This is legal. It may not be legal in Tennessee, but this is legal," Castro said.

Their marriage is recognized in the dozen states that allow same-sex marriage and now by the federal government, at least for the purpose of benefits like Social Security.

"It's amazing because now federally, we have recognition. This coming year, from what I'm understanding, we could file taxes jointly because we were married this year," Castro said.

For others, the Supreme Court decision was a disappointment.

"There's a continued attack on traditional marriage. Traditional marriage has been around for thousands and thousands of years before there was ever a government to sanction it. Men and women came together, that's how society continued in existence," said Republican state Rep. Bill Dunn, who sponsored Tennessee's marriage amendment.

He is relieved the ruling won't affect that.

"Tennessee recognizes in its constitution that marriage is between a man and a woman and the people voted by over 80% to say that is what marriage has always been and that's what Tennessee wants it to be," Dunn said.

As both sides point out, just because a federal law has been struck down doesn't force people to change their minds.

"It's still hard living here," Castro said. "We will probably look at moving because we want to be accepted where we are living, not to mention we want to raise a family. We want to have just a normal life."

Some local pastors are also speaking out on the ruling.

"Same sex marriage is unbiblical and we're not supporting same sex marriage as a church, as a body of believers. I know everyone in the church has their differing opinion and we respect those, but as Mount Olive Baptist Church - East Knoxville we do not support same sex marriages," said senior pastor Dr. Valentino J. McNeal.

"God has specifically addressed issues like the subject of homosexuality. It is clear that God loves people. God loves straight people. God loves gay people. God doesn't hate a group and love another group. But it's clear in the scripture that it's sin," said senior pastor Dr. Chris Stephens of Faith Promise Church.

At Knoxville's PrideFest last weekend, several church congregations and ministers did sign a public statement in support of same-sex marriage.

The seven congregations are Church of the Savior United Church of Christ, Foothills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Metropolitan Community Church, Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist, The Remnant Church, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist and Unity Transformation.

Individually, 27 clergy members also signed the statement of support for gay marriage.

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