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4 Tennessee Couples Sue Over Right to Marry
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Following New Jersey’s example, of allowing same-sex couples to marry, four Tennessee same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit that aims to force the state of Tennessee to recognize their marriages legally. The National Center for Lesbian Rights sponsored the suit, which argues that the state’s law is unconstitutional as it “discriminates based on sexual orientation,” according to USA Today. Tennessee’s state laws and constitutional prohibition are against gay marriage, and the current lawsuit is a step towards getting same sex marriage legalized in Tennessee. The current state laws “strip same-sex couples of their constitutional rights to due process, equal protection under the law and the right to travel or relocate to another state without having one’s rights taken away.”


The lawsuit sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights draws its power from the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedent in striking down the defense of marriage act, or (DOMA), forcing the federal government to “recognize same-sex marriages from states where it is legal.”

The couples were all married in New York or California, and had moved to Tennessee. They currently live in different corners of the state in urban and suburban locales, north or south of Greenbrier or Nashville. Tennessee’s Attorney General’s office commented that it was too early to comment. “In Tennessee, a state law passed in 1998 and constitutional amendment that voters passed in 2006 prohibit marriage between partners of the same gender.”

Same sex couples in Tennessee discuss some of the consequences of not being legally married. For example, taxation laws affect them negatively in cases of property inheritance, where married couples inherit without extra property tax.

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Former state senator David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, one of the “architects of the efforts to narrowly define marriage” comments, “California and New York had the right to define marriage as how their people saw fit, and so should the state of Tennessee.”

Abby Rubenfeld, an attorney working with the couples seeking marriage-equality in Tennessee comments, “Its our position that, once we win this lawsuit, once there’s recognition of these marriages, the next step is going to be people can go out and get married in Tennessee. That’s what we’re aiming for. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Dr. Sophy Jesty of Knoxville, Tenn. summed up the struggle, “Like other families, we want to have rights and obligations under the law.” Or in other words, same sex couples just want equal protection under the law, and they want the normal treatment the law gives to other couples that are heterosexual.

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