Tenn. Venue Rejects Gay Iraq War Vet Couple
Officials of a private wedding venue in Tennessee allegedly refused to host a wedding ceremony for two gay Iraq War veterans, Nashville, Tenn., NBC-affiliate station WSMV reports.
Anthony Willfert and his partner Brain Blas started dating nine years ago while serving with Fort Campbell, an Army installation on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, when the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was enforced.
The couple wanted to hold a commitment ceremony (gay marriage is not legal in Tennessee) and recently took a tour of private wedding venue Mint Springs Farms in Nolensville, Tenn., with an employee.
"I made it clear from the get-go that it was a same-sex ceremony," Wilfert told WSMV. "He explicitly made it clear that it was not an issue, that they would host that type of ceremony."
The couple says two employees initially said the venue would be willing to hold a same-sex ceremony. But the men received an email from Mint Springs Farm’s owner, which reportedly reads:
"Unfortunately, until same sex marriage is legal in the state of Tennesse [sic], we cannot participate in this ceremony at our venue. I wish we could help, I truly do, but our hands are tied in this situation."
Wilfret said he and Blas picked the venue because it is privately owned and "not tied to a religious organization." He said to mention a state law is "baffling." WSMV notes the venue’s website says, "Mint Springs Farm is an all-inclusive venue."
"I just think it’s a really horrible excuse for not wanting to host something," Blas added.
The owner of Mint Springs Farm also sent a statement to WSMV regarding the incident:
We are deeply sorry that a staff member of ours was unaware of our policy and truly understand the disappointment of this couple. Our employee was simply trying to be helpful to this couple who visited our venue after hours.
We only do weddings at our facility. When we went into this endeavor, we knew that due to the nature of our business, this situation would arise. However, Tennessee law currently states that same-sex marriage is prohibited by the Tennessee State Constitution. Because we only host weddings, we cannot violate Tennessee law.
This decision does not in any way reflect or convey any personal feelings on this matter.
We wish this couple the very best."
Wilfert calls the incident "disheartening," adding, "to have fought in the military for freedoms and liberties of all Americans, it can be quite deflating to come back to fight a whole new set of obstacles."
The men say they plan to hold their ceremony at another venue.
"We’ll go somewhere else, and I think that’ll make for a better wedding at the end of the day," said Blas.