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Same-Sex Couples Sue Tennessee for Marriage Recognition

Same-Sex Couples Sue Tennessee for Marriage Recognition

The four couples were legally married in other states and say Tennessee is violating their constitutional rights by not recognizing their unions.

New Jersey isn’t the only state making marriage equality news today; four same-sex couples who live in Tennessee but were legally married elsewhere filed a lawsuit calling for their home state to recognize their marriages.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Nashville, says Tennessee’s law prohibiting recognition of their marriages violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process and the constitutionally protected right to travel between and move to other states, according to a press release from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing them along with attorneys from Nashville and Knoxville.

The couples are Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty (pictured) of Knoxville; Army Reserve Sgt. First Class Ijpe DeKoe and Thom Kostura of Memphis; Kellie Miller and Vanessa DeVillez of Greenbrier; and Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo of Franklin. The first three were wed in New York, the fourth in California.

“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,” said Jesty, who moved to Tennessee with her wife in 2011 to take a teaching position at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville, where Tanco also teaches. “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.”

Added NCLR legal director Shannon Minter: “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.” 

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