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Same-sex marriage in Tennessee

Part 2: The "Tanco v. Tennessee" lawsuit.
2013-NOV: Plaintiffs request summary judgment.
Potential impact of this lawsuit elsewhere.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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In this web site, "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage; LGBT
refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.

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2013-NOV-18: Couples request a summary judgment:

The four couples made a second filing with the court asking for an immediate ruling to protection for themselves and families while their lawsuit was being considered. It would continue until their main lawsuit is concluded. They point out that their families are at risk for serious harm which can only be prevented if the state were required to recognize their marriages.

Plaintiff Dr. Jesty said:

"We filed today’s motion because we want to protect our family. We are expecting a child in a few months, and it is extremely distressing that the law makes it impossible for us both to be recognized as legal parents. We urgently need the same protections as other married couples so that we can give our child the stability and protection she deserves." 1

She also said:

"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. 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." 2

Sergeant DeKoe 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." 2

Kellie Miller said:

"When we decided to move to Tennessee, I was excited to move back home and return to my former job. We did our best to prepare ourselves when we realized that Tennessee would not recognize our marriage, but we could have never anticipated all the negative ways it has affected us, from big things like not being considered each other’s next of kin for purposes of making medical decisions to small, but important things like not being able to change our driver’s licenses to reflect our married name. Every day, we are reminded that Tennessee does not value our commitment or our family.

We moved to Nashville when my employer decided to relocate me. ... It has been painful to have the state where we live refuse to recognize our marriage. What has been more painful is seeing our kids trying to make sense of it all and never knowing whether our marriage will be respected as we go through our daily lives." 2

One of the plaintiffs' lawyers, Abby R. Rubenfeld, of Rubenfeld Law Office in Nashville said:

"These discriminatory laws are causing serious harms to families in our state. Every Tennessean who values family should care that their neighbors are being hurt by these laws." 1

She also said:

"Tennessee is the volunteer state—it is our tradition to honor and applaud those who voluntarily move here to enjoy the benefits of this great state—not deny them benefits and respect afforded them in other states. Tennessee traditionally values fairness and family. The time has come for Tennessee law to be true to those values by including same-sex couples who legally married before moving to Tennessee because this state is as much their home as it is ours. We believe that the United States Constitution requires that Tennessee law treat married same-sex couples like all other married couples. Today, we ask the courts to reaffirm that dignity and respect are core values in Tennessee and that our anti-marriage recognition laws conflict with those values." 2

Another lawyer for the Plaintiffs, William Harbison, a partner at Sherrard & Roe in Nashville, said:

"Every day that goes by, these couples and their families are being denied critically important protections that other married couples take for granted. These laws are out of step with the reality that more and more same-sex couples are legally married. They also violate the most basic requirements of equal protection and due process. We are asking the court to move quickly because these families need immediate relief."

Shannon Minter, NCLR legal director, said:

"Since these laws were enacted, more and more people in Tennessee and across the country have come to recognize that same-sex couples and their children deserve the same protections and respect as other families. These couples are married, and it serves no purpose for the law to ignore their marriages and treat them as legal strangers to one another. These laws are causing serious harm to families currently living in Tennessee, while helping no one." 2

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Potential long-term implications of this lawsuit and similar lawsuits in other states:

On 2013-JUN-26, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional, it left the Section 2 in place.

Section 2 states:

"No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship." 3

This lawsuit is one of over a dozen cases currently being considered by either a federal District Court or a U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. If one of these lawsuits were to be appealed to a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and later to the U.S. Supreme Court, the latter court could conceivably declare Section 2 of the federal DOMA law to be unconstitutional. That could give a major boost towards marriage equality, because it might force states like Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages solemnized out-of-state. This would allow any loving, committed same-sex couple in the U.S. to visit another state, get legally married there, return to their state of residence and assert their right to have their marriage recognized.

Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is helping litigate in this case, said:

"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." 3

According to NCLR, the summary judgment, if granted, as:

"... requested by the couples, would take effect immediately and remain in effect as the case proceeds toward a final resolution. The couples argue that such an order is necessary because Tennessee’s refusal to respect their marriages deprives them [and their children] of critical legal protections and benefits that they previously enjoyed, many of which are designed to protect couples during an emergency. 4

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Married Same-Sex Couples in Tennessee Ask Court for Immediate Protection of Their Families," The Rainbow Times, 2013-NOV-20, at:
  2. "Same-Sex Couples File Marriage Recognition Lawsuit in Tennessee," Press Release, National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2013-OCT-21, at:
  3. Steve Williams, "New Gay Marriage Lawsuit is Much Bigger than Tennessee," Care2, 2013-OCT-22, at:
  4. "Case summary and history: Tanco v. Haslam," National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2013-NOV, at:

Site navigation:

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > Same-sex marriage> same-sex marriage sub-menu > Tennessee > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> Same-sex marriage >same-sex marriage sub-menu > Tennessee > here

Copyright © 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-NOV-20
Latest update: 2014-AUG-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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