(Washington, DC, March 5, 2015)—The United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument on April 28, 2015 in marriage equality cases from Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio.
By hearing the cases, the Court has an opportunity to bring an end to the serious harms caused by discriminatory marriage laws in the minority of states that continue to deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry. The Court is expected to issue a decision by the end of June 2015.
The Tennessee plaintiff couples are Dr. Valeria Tanco and Dr. Sophy Jesty; Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe and Thom Kostura; and Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo. They are represented by Shannon Minter, Christopher F. Stoll, and David C. Codell of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Tennessee attorneys Abby Rubenfeld, Maureen Holland, and Regina Lambert, William Harbison and other attorneys from the law firm of Sherrard & Roe PLC, and Douglas Hallward-Driemeier and other attorneys from the law firm of Ropes & Gray LLP.
“We’re hopeful the Court will recognize that our family is like other families in Tennessee,” said Tanco, who has an 11-month-old daughter with Jesty. “Even though we were married when we moved to Tennessee, Tennessee doesn’t see us as a family or give us any of the legal protections that other married couples have. We are grateful to have this chance to explain to the Court why this discrimination hurts us and our daughter.”
Minter, who serves as NCLR legal director, said: “Currently, same-sex couples in many states face a constitutionally intolerable situation because their home states treat them as legal strangers. Every day, legally married same-sex couples are forced to give up the status and protections of marriage as the price of traveling or moving to a state that excludes them from marriage. No family should be stripped of legal recognition simply by crossing a state. We hope the Supreme Court will finally bring an end to the harms that same-sex couples and their children face when they are treated with such callous disregard for their equal dignity and security as families.”
In a 2-1 decision on Nov. 6, 2014, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld marriage bans in Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio—creating a conflict with the four other federal appeals courts that have invalidated similar state marriage bans in recent months. The U.S. Supreme Court on October 6, 2014 declined to review federal appeals court decisions striking down marriage bans in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Since the Supreme Court denied review in those cases, same-sex couples can now marry in 37 states and the District of Columbia.
On Nov. 15, 2014, the Tennessee couples asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case, arguing: “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.”