Same-sex marriage in Tennessee
The struggle for
marriage equality in Tennessee
Tennessee is located in the Southeastern United States, roughly halfway between Lake Superior and Florida. In terms of geographical area, it is the 36th largest state. In terms of population, it is the 17th largest. It shares a border with Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri.
Most of the over 6 million people in Tennessee, when they become -- or became -- teenagers, start to date others. Typically, they will find the one person with whom they would like to live together for the rest of their life. If they happen to have a heterosexual orientation, or a bisexual orientation, many will marry or enter into a common-law relationship, with a member of the opposite sex, hopefully for the rest of their lives.
If they are gay or lesbian, marriage is not an option. The state of Tennessee restricts marriage to the voluntary union of one woman and one man. Tennessee treats two persons of the same-sex who are in a loving, committed relationship as "legal strangers." They are considered as roommates -- without the benefits and protections that opposite-sex couples can gain automatically for themselves and their children when they marry. That involves 1,138 federal benefits and a few hundred state benefits.
An amendment to the Tennessee Constitution to ban same-sex marriage was passed by voters in 2006-NOV with a vote of 81% in favor, 19% against. At the time, polls indicated that voters across the U.S. were also opposed to marriage equality, but not to the same degree as voters in Tennessee. National polls showed that voters were about 45% in favor and 53% opposed at the time.
The Amendment bans both same-sex marriages in Tennessee and the recognition in Tennessee of same-sex marriages that have been legally solemnized out of state. It states
"The historical institution and legal contract solemnizing the relationship of
one man and one woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract
in this state. Any policy or law or judicial interpretation, purporting to define
marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract
between one man and one woman, is contrary to the public policy of this state
and shall be void and unenforceable in Tennessee. If another state or foreign jurisdiction issues a license for persons to marry and if such marriage is
prohibited in this state by the provisions of this section, then the marriage
shall be void and unenforceable in this state." 1
2013-OCT to now: "Tanco v. Tennesee" lawsuit involving four couples seeking to have their out-of-state marriages recognized:
On 2013-OCT-21, four couples who had married in New York State or California filed a lawsuit "Tanco v. Tennessee" in federal District Court.
On 2013-NOV-18, the plaintiffs requested a summary judgment which would give them immediate protections while the lawsuit was being processed. This was granted on 2014-MAR-14. However, it only extended to the plaintiffs in the case and did not include other same-sex married couples in the state who had been married elsewhere.
A week later, the Family Action Council of Tennessee -- a conservative Christian group opposed to marriage equality -- expressed concern that the effects of the lawsuit, and similar cases in other states, may eventually cause the destruction of American society.
The state appealed the case to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where it was combined with five other similar appeals from three other states: Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio. The case was heard in a marathon session on 2014-AUG-07. A ruling is expected within weeks.
As of 2014-AUG, same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state. 2
There is a general consensus that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually rule on same-sex marriage and will decide the matter across the entire country as it did in 1967 for interracial marriage in the famous case Loving v. Virginia.
Borman v. Pyles-Borman lawsuit involving one gay couple, married in Iowa, seeking a divorce:
Topics covered in this section:
- Tanco v. Tennessee lawsuit concerning overturning same-sex marriage ban:
- Borman v. Pyles-Borman lawsuit concerning divorce involving an out-of-state marriage:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Text of State Constitutional Amendments and Revisions Targeting Same-Sex Relationships: Tennessee," Lambda Legal, Page 10, at: http://www.lambdalegal.org/
- Amber Hunt & A.J. Kmetz, "Court weighs 4 states' gay marriage cases," The Cincinnati Enquirer, 2014-AUG-07, at: http://www.wbir.com/
Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2014-AUG-09
Latest update: 2014-AUG-18
Author: Bruce A. Robinson