Four Couples File Suit Challenging Tennessee’s Gay Marriage Ban

Four gay couples filed suit in Tennessee today challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage, according to a press release from the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

TennesseeThe couples, who include a full-time Army reservist and his husband and two professors of veterinary medicine, all formerly lived and married in other states and later moved to Tennessee to pursue careers and make new homes for their families. Tennessee law currently prohibits recognition of their marriages and treats the couples as legal strangers.

The lawsuit argues that Tennessee’s laws prohibiting recognition of the couples’ marriages violates the federal Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process and the constitutionally protected right to travel between and move to other states.

The couples are Dr. Valeria Tanco and Dr. Sophy Jesty of Knoxville; Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe and Thom Kostura of Memphis; Kellie Miller and Vanessa DeVillez of Greenbrier; and Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo of Franklin. The couples are represented by Nashville attorneys Abby R. Rubenfeld, William Harbison, Scott Hickman, Phil Cramer and John Farringer of the law firm of Sherrard & Roe, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and attorneys Maureen T. Holland of Memphis and Regina Lambert of Knoxville.

Minter“Getting married not only enabled us to express our love and commitment to one another, but it also provided us with the protections we would need as we started our new lives together,” said Dr. Jesty, who moved to Tennessee with her wife in 2011 to accept a teaching position at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville, where her spouse also teaches. “When we moved to Tennessee, we lost those protections. Now that Val is pregnant with our first child, having those protections is more important than ever.”

Sergeant DeKoe, who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan, said: “Fairness and equality are the guiding principles of our government, and as a member of the armed forces, I have fought and will continue to fight for those principles. After returning to Memphis with Thom, I was saddened to learn that Tennessee law does not live up to those ideals in the way it treats married same-sex couples.”

Said NCLR legal director Shannon Minter (pictured): “Married couples should be able to travel and to live in any state knowing that their family is protected. Tennessee’s current law hurts same-sex couples and their children without helping anyone.”

Read the complaint HERE.