Two local gay couples asked the Shelby County Clerk's Office for marriage licenses on Wednesday morning, only to be turned away because Tennessee doesn't allow gay marriage.
"They said they don't do them yet," said Aaron Thompson, one half of a couple who applied on Wednesday.
The couples, who participated in the action with the backing of the Tennessee Equality Project, expected to be turned away. The action was a symbolic way to show that gay couples in the state want the opportunity to get married and have the same rights as straight couples.
"I think everybody realizes that something is coming down the pike," Thompson said. "We just have to start stepping up and doing something. The first step is to get turned down."
Thompson and his husband Chris Snow married in Washington D.C. three years ago, but Thompson said they are "looking for the state of Tennessee to recognize [our marriage]." The men have been a couple for 13 years.
Thompson said they want the right to make medical decisions for one another at the hospital, a right that straight married couples have. And they'd like Tennessee to recognize their marriage for tax reasons.
"It's such a big commitment to have this piece of paper that says we are family," Snow said.
Amy Barton and her fiancee Lyndsay Gray were also turned down for a marriage license. The couple are planning a commitment ceremony in Arkansas, where many of their friends and family live, for October 2014. Like Tennessee, Arkansas also has a state ban on gay marriage.
Barton has three teenagers from a previous marriage, and she said she'd like for Gray to be their legal stepmother.
"We want to be a true structural unit. If something happened to me and I was in the hospital, I don't know if she'd have access to me and the kids," Barton said.