Most Same-Sex Couples Aren't Racing To The Courthouse After Marriage Ruling
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When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage this summer, many people expected to see long lines forming at county courthouses. There have been newlyweds in the two months since, but now that same-sex couples can marry, many are asking what's the rush? Chas Sisk with member station WPLN in Nashville sent this report.
(SOUNDBITE OF FELIX MENDELSSOHN SONG, "WEDDING MARCH")
CHAS SISK, BYLINE: The guests turn to watch as two grooms stroll down the aisles, a pair of young African-American men in matching slate-gray suits.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I invite you now to turn to each other, join your hands...
SISK: Standing hand-in-hand, they exchange their vows.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I now pronounce you husbands in life and in marriage. You may seal this promise with a kiss.
SISK: Gregory Cason and his soon-to-be husband got engaged New Year's Eve. But this is just a mock ceremony staged in a downtown Nashville hotel for an audience of wedding vendors. The idea is to show them how to celebrate a same-sex marriage. The real ceremony isn't until next year. Cason didn't have to wait so long, so why did he?
GREGORY CASON: To rush to the courthouse and get married to say, yes, we're married is one good thing, ans that's the way some people want to do it. But other people like myself really want this kind of ceremony type thing to share with our family and with our friends.
SISK: Since late June, only about 800 gay and lesbian couples in Tennessee have wed. Compare that to Massachusetts, a similarly sized state. In the week after it became the first in the nation to recognize gay marriage, nearly 2,500 couples wed - three times as many in just a week. The discrepancy can be explained in part by there being fewer gay couples in Tennessee and also by Tennessee being among the last states to allow same-sex marriage. Many couples have already married elsewhere. It's also true that for those like Cason who are only now thinking about marriage, the dynamics have changed.
CASON: A lot of people don't want that denial. A lot of people really want to take the time now and go through and plan the tradition type of wedding that they've always dreamed of, and it takes time.
SISK: According to supporters of same-sex marriage, the picture is more or less the same across the country - slow and steady. Accountant Joyce Peacock works with a lot of committed partners. For them, marriage might be more complicated than it seems.
JOYCE PEACOCK: It's a whole rethinking of some of the ways that they've been operating.
SISK: Because they couldn't marry, many same-sex couples worked out legal agreements that spell out who makes medical decisions if they're sick or how their savings would be divided up after death. Getting married would actually undo those contracts.
PEACOCK: It's just a whole new realm for people who've been living together in a relationship for 10 years and suddenly have the option. And they want to know, how does that affect things because it does.
SISK: There's another reason couples aren't racing for the courthouse. They no longer feel like they have to because same-sex marriage appears to be here to stay. Event planner Amos Gott, who is gay, says a formal wedding can be a powerful statement - a venue, a minister, a walk down the aisle and a reception to follow.
AMOS GOTT: We go to traditional weddings to see a couple unite. You know, you're there, and you see it happen. And therefore, if your heart or in your mind, you know they're married. You support that marriage. If we don't get straight individuals used to seeing gay couples marry, it still feels like just going to a party.
SISK: Gott also says going slow could be good for the relationship.
GOTT: The reason there's not also been a race by a lot of people to the courthouse is because it's one thing to want to get married and then when you get there, you're like, oh, wait (laughter). Are we there? Do we have all those questions answered that a lot of couples go through counseling with ministers and otherwise to get to?
SISK: It's a set of questions Gott has given some thought to himself.
GOTT: You know, always the planner, never the groom in my case, so I'm not there yet.
SISK: Gay or straight, says Gott, marriage is a big step, not one to rush into. For NPR News, I'm Chas Sisk in Nashville.
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