I had a feeling this might happen, but still had hopes that people in my hometown would be more embracing than this. In our search for the perfect place to share our commitment to one another, we’ve seen a number of wonderful places here in New York and would be happy with any one of them. But when Matt found The Barn at Chestnut Springs, a wedding space in my hometown of Sevierville, TN, we both got very excited.
Having our wedding in Tennessee would mean an easier trip for my family (they’re mostly there in Sevierville) and Matt’s family enjoys the Smoky Mountains. It would mean having our initial service at the courthouse here in New York, since Tennessee does not recognize same-sex marriages, but we explained as much in our email to Melanie Lee at The Barn at Chestnut Springs when we contacted her on January 26th
Ms. Lee replied on January 28th and I opened her email hoping to see rates and availability. But I was dismayed to see her refer to our wedding as a “non-wedding event”… which appears to be her way of saying our marriage doesn’t count as far as she’s concerned.
I wrote back, hoping that she simply misunderstood, and tried to clarify our situation.
I received no response. I tried a second time, and nothing. We waited a week hoping that she was just busy. But no response ever came. This was a clear, if silent, message that gays are not allowed at to be married at The Barn at Chestnut Springs.
As far as I’m concerned, Ms. Lee and her barn can have their discriminatory feelings and Matt and I will find a place that will embrace us and our families. Sadly, Tennessee does not cover sexual orientation in its Public Accommodation law, and until it does Ms. Lee can legally say no to gay couples all she wants. I hope that the Federal government will soon amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation to prevent this sort of bigotry in public businesses across ALL states.
If only Ms. Lee felt the way Dolly Parton (a fellow Sevierville native and whose family previously owned the property) feels about marriage equality. In 2009, Dolly appeared on The Joy Behar Show where Behar asked her “Would you say that you are pro–gay marriage?”
The stellar Ms. Parton didn’t hesitate. “Sure, why can’t they get married? They should suffer like the rest of us do.” Amen Dolly. And frankly, Ms. Lee’s loss. Because this wedding, and our life together, is going to be fabulous!