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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Tennessee.

Part 5: Early 2014-NOV: More reactions to the
ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
affecting Tennessee, along with Kentucky,
Michigan, and Ohio.

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The acronym "LGBT" used throughout this web site refers
to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community.

The acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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2014-NOV-06: The court issues its ruling. A video by WBIR-TV, a NBC affiliate in Knoxville, TN:


2014-NOV-06: Comments by a plaintiff couple's lawyer and the Tennessee Attorney General:

Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty were legally married in another state and later moved Tennessee where the state refused to recognize their marriage. Seeking recognition for their marriage, they joined with two other same-sex couples to file a lawsuit in federal District Court called "Tanco v. Haslam." In 2014-MAR, a federal District Court judge ruled in favor of the couples. The ruling was stayed a month later by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to which court "Tanco" was appealed. Responding to the ruling by the Circuit Court:

  • Tanco and Jesty's attorney issued a statement saying:

    "Obviously we are disappointed with the decision. It is completely inconsistent with dozens of federal court decisions since Windsor – including four U.S. appellate courts -- that have ruled that same-sex couples and their children are entitled to the same dignity and legal protection as other families. The freedom to marry is one of the most basic rights protected by our constitution, and one that belongs to every American, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. We are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately resolves this matter and rule that equal protection requires Tennessee, and every [other] state, to treat same-sex couples and their children with the same respect as other families." 1

  • Tennessee Attorney General Robert E Cooper, Jr. (D) issued a statement saying:

    "The State has maintained that its democratically enacted marriage laws do not violate constitutional rights. We are gratified that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has now essentially agreed with that position and, in doing so, has left the definition of marriage in the place it has been since the founding: in the hands of state voters." 1

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2014-NOV-07: In an unrelated case, a District Court judge in West Virginia commented on the 6th Circuit Court's ruling:

Chief Judge Robert C. Chambers of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. Huntington Division issued his decision in the lawsuit McGee et al. v. Cole et al. 2 That document formally nullified West Virginia's constitutional ban of marriages by same-sex couples.

Judge Chamber's ruling contained an interesting footnote starting at the bottom of Page 16 and continued at the bottom of Page 17. He commented on the NOV-06 decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in DeBoer v. Snyder. The DeBoer ruling had concluded that bans on marriages by same-sex couples should not be challenged in the courts, but should be left to public opinion or legislative processes to eventually repeal of the bans. That, of course, could easily take two decades in some conservative states.

His footnote reads:

"The Sixth Circuit in DeBoer v. Snyder, ... reached the opposite result. The majority there noted two rationales in support of the marriage bans. ... First, the court found the marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee to be rooted in the States’ interest in regulating procreation by providing incentives for parents to remain together. ... But the opinion then conceded that this view of marriage can no longer be sustained, that marriage now serves 'another value -- to solemnize relationships characterized by love, affection, and commitment.' ... Denying marital status and its benefits to a couple that cannot procreate does nothing to further the original interest of regulating procreation and irrationally excludes the couple from the latter purpose of marriage. Second, the majority in DeBoer implores opponents of the marriage bans to proceed slowly, through the legislative process, and justifies the bans by asserting the States’ right to take a “wait and see” approach. ... This approach, however, fails to recognize the role of courts in the democratic process. It is the duty of the judiciary to examine government action through the lens of the Constitution’s protection of individual freedom. Courts cannot avoid or deny this duty just because it arises during the contentious public debate that often accompanies the evolution of policy making throughout the states. Judges may not simultaneously find a right violated yet defer to an uncertain future remedy voluntarily undertaken by the violators." 2

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2014-NOV: More reactions to the 6th Circuit Courts ruling:

They were mostly positive. People on both sides anticipate an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court who might issue a ruling that affects more than the four states involved in DeBoer v. Snyder and might either permit or forbid same-sex marriage across the entire country.

  • Chase Strangio, an attorney at the American Civil Liberty Association's Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said that the ruling is:

    "... an outlier that’s incompatible with the 50 other rulings that uphold fairness for all families. ... We will be filing for Supreme Court review right away and hope that through this deeply disappointing ruling we will be able to bring a uniform rule of equality to the entire country."

  • Freedom To Marry -- a pro-equality group -- commented on the situation in Michigan, which is the same as in Tennessee:

    "On November 6, the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled against the freedom to marry, reversing a lower court ruling in this federal case seeking the freedom to marry in Michigan. The out-of-step decision ignores nearly 50 pro-marriage rulings since June 2013. It's time for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn this decision and rule in favor of the freedom to marry nationwide. 3

  • Brian Brown is president of the National Organization for Marriage -- an anti-marriage equality group. said:

    "We are ecstatic. The other side was counting their chickens before they’re hatched."

    Referring to the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal on OCT-06 to consider appeals from three U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, he said:

    "The justices of the Supreme Court were derelict in their duty when they refused to review the marriage cases previously before them. They now have no excuse." 4

  • Carole Stanyar, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, apparently referring to the requested appeal to the high court, said:

    "Onward and upward. We’re ready to go."

  • Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who supported the same-sex marriage in court, referred to the the appeal to the Supreme Court, said:

    "The sooner they rule, the better, for Michigan and the country."

  • U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, (D) who supports marriage equality, said:

    "I know in the long view of history it will only be a small setback in the ultimate pursuit of equality." 4

  • Tony Perkins, is president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian para-church organization, which has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group. 5 He said that the resent surge in support for conservatives in the mid-term elections indicates that support for marriage equality is stalling:

    "... “as Americans begin to experience and consider the consequences for religious freedom, free speech, and [heterosexual] parental rights." 6

  • Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign -- a major pro-equality group -- wrote:

    "In the wake of this devastating decision and the losses equality faced in this week’s election, we have a lot of work ahead of us. The time has come for full marriage equality, everywhere, for everyone." 7

  • The Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal defense group that specializes in lawsuits dealing with religious freedom -- including defending conservative Christians who seek the religious freedom to discriminate against the LGBT community. Byron Babione, a senior counsel, claims that the 6th Circuit Court's decision was consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Windsor vs. United States. He said:

    "While Windsor struck down a crucial component of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, it left open the issue of state-level bans on gay marriage.

    The people of every state should remain free to affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws.

    The 6th Circuit's decision is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's acknowledgement in Windsor that marriage law is the business of the states." 6

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The next step?

Lyle Denniston in SCOTUSblog -- a web site that monitors activity of the U.S. Supreme Court -- wrote that the decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is:

"... precisely the kind of division of judgment that ordinarily will lead the Supreme Court to step in to resolve the split, especially on an issue of fundamental constitutional significance." 6

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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. "Court upholds laws against Tenn. same-sex marriage," WBIR-TV, 2014-NOV-06, at:
  2. Ruling in McGee et al. v. Cole et al., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. Huntington Division, 2014-NOV-07, at:
  3. "DeBoer v. Snyder. What's Happening," Freedom to Marry, 2014-NOV, at:
  4. David Crary, "Joy, dismay as gay marriage advocates, opponents assess 6th Circuit ruling," LGBTQNATION, 2014-NOV-07, at:
  5. David Demirbilek, "Southern Poverty Law Center repeats 'hate group' claim about Family Research Council," Daily Caller, 2012-SEP-13, at:
  6. Michael Gryboski, "Sixth Circuit Decision to Uphold Gay Marriage Ban Part of Trend in Favor of Traditional Marriage, Conservatives Say," Christian Post, 2014-NOV-07, at:
  7. David Crary, "Joy, Dismay as 2 Sides Assess Gay-Marriage Ruling," 2014-NOV-07, at:

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Tennessee > here

Copyright © by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initially posted: 2014-NOV-10
Latest update: 2014-NOV-20
Author: B.A. Robinson
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