Federal Court Says Tennessee Must Recognize Marriages of Gay Plaintiffs While Legal Challenge Proceeds
A U.S. District Court in Nashville today said that Tennessee officials must recognize the marriages of three gay couples who married in other states while their legal challenge, filed in October, proceeds.
Tennessee now joins several other states—including Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky, and Texas—in which a federal court has ruled that states must allow same-sex couples to marry or recognize the marriages of couples who married in other states since the Supreme Court’s ruling last June requiring the federal government to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. Every federal court to have considered such a challenge since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in United States v. Windsor has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.
In her ruling today, U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger took note of these earlier decisions, writing: “In light of this rising tide of persuasive post-Windsor federal caselaw, it is no leap to conclude that the plaintiffs here are likely to succeed in their challenge to Tennessee’s Anti-Recognition Laws.”
The couples filed a federal lawsuit on October 21, 2013 alleging that Tennessee’s failure to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples 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 filed a motion in November 2013 to seek immediate protection while their case proceeds. In granting that motion today, Judge Trauger held that Tennessee’s laws prohibiting the state from acknowledging the equal dignity of the married couples’ relationships and families likely would cause them significant and irreparable harm, including because one of the couples is expecting a baby within days and urgently needs the legal protection and security of having both partners recognized as legal parents, as other married couples in Tennessee are recognized.
The couples are Dr. Valeria Tanco and Dr. Sophy Jesty of Knoxville; Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe and Thom Kostura of Memphis; and Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo of Franklin.
The couples are represented by attorneys Abby R. Rubenfeld of Nashville, William Harbison, Scott Hickman, Phil Cramer, and John Farringer of the law firm of Sherrard & Roe in Nashville, Maureen T. Holland of Memphis, Regina Lambert of Knoxville, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
Read more about the case HERE.