(Nashville, TN, Nov. 14, 2014)—Today, the three same-sex couples challenging the State of Tennessee’s laws excluding same-sex couples from marriage and refusing to recognize their out-of-state marriages asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that state marriage bans do not violate the U.S. Constitution.
In a 2-1 decision on Nov. 6, 2014, the Sixth Circuit upheld marriage bans in Tennessee and three other states—the first time a federal appeals court has ruled against the freedom to marry. That decision created a conflict with the four other federal appeals courts that have invalidated similar state marriage bans in recent months.
In their request to the U.S. Supreme court, the three Tennessee couples argue: “Breaking with the otherwise uniform view of the courts of appeals, a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld Tennessee’s Non-Recognition Laws. The court of appeals’ holding not only denies recognition to petitioners’ own marriages and families, but also establishes a “checkerboard” nation in which same-sex couples’ marriages are dissolved and reestablished as they travel across the country. That is the antithesis of the stability that marriage is supposed to afford.”
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 the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), attorneys Abby Rubenfeld, Maureen Holland, and Regina Lambert, and the law firms of Sherrard & Roe PLC and Ropes & Gray LLP.
Said Jesty: “We live in fear for ourselves and our little girl because we don’t have the same legal protections in Tennessee as other families and we’re hopeful that the United States Supreme Court will resolve this issue so we no longer need to live in fear. Every day we’re denied marriage equality in our state is another day that our family’s wellbeing is jeopardized.”
Added DeKoe: “I serve this country every day so every single person can enjoy the freedoms of justice and liberty, yet Thom and I are treated unequally in Tennessee where I’m based. Like all other couples, we want to be able to protect one another, but Tennessee’s marriage ban makes it impossible for us to be a legally recognized family. Until we are fully respected, we will never have the freedom and security that I have spent my entire military career defending.”