‘We want everyone to be treated equally’: Blount Co. couple hoping new law can provide safeguard LGBTQ+ community

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BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — One Blount County couple is hoping a new law can provide a safeguard for them and other LGBTQ+ community members after experiencing discrimination first-hand in the housing market.

New Legislation to update American Civil Laws passed the House yesterday and is heading to the Senate.

It aims to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Democrats say the Equality Act would provide stronger protection for members of the LGBTQ+ Community.

Devon and Ashley Burkhart

Devon and Ashley Burkhart bought their first home together just a few months ago.

When they were signing final documents, they realized a phrase in their deed could have real consequences in the future if it wasn’t changed.

Now they want other LGBTQ+ community members to be aware of what they’re signing when buying a home.

“Because it’s an uncomfortable topic, I feel like people don’t know how to react,” said Devon Burkhart. “Normally I would advocate for my client but then when it was for myself it actually stopped me a little bit.”

Ashley and Devon met just a few years ago.

“Our lives were so parallel,” explained Ashley. “Devon and I lived like two miles down the road from each other. Never knew each other, never met. We have so many of the same mutual friends.”

“We had our first date January 5th, 2018 and we didn’t waste time,” laughed Ashley. “Eleven months later we decided to get married.”

Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, they’ve experienced discrimination from others,

“As far as in the community, it wasn’t taboo up north, and then when I moved down here there was a little bit of a change,” Devon said.

That change was evident when they bought their first home.

“Any problems with any paperwork or the verbiage of it, I think needs to be addressed for everyone, not just for gay couples, because it’s very important on how things are recorded,” said Devon who’s a realtor.

It was three words on the TITLE Paperwork for their deed.

It said, “Husband and Wife.”

“It should have been general natural, and we were able to get it changed to ‘married couple’ so it’s reflective of, you know, we’re married,” Devon explained. “Because when it said husband and wife, we did have concerns.”

Those three words could have had legal consequences had they not fought for the change.

“If a deed isn’t recorded properly, it can open things up to probate,” Devon added.

Now, they want other couples in the same situation to be aware.

“Never be afraid to ask questions or speak up for yourself,” said Ashley.

Equal opportunities is a deed the Burkharts believe all people should have.

“We want everyone to be treated equally, regardless of your religion, regardless of the color of your skin, your gender, anything, I mean, we’re all the same,” Ashley added.

The Burkharts are starting a LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance here in Knoxville.

The measure would amend the Civil Right Acts of 1964 and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story said the Equality Act could have trouble passing the Republican-controlled Senate. The current U.S. Senate has 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats with a tie-breaking vote going to Vice President Kamala Harris (D) for legislation)

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