Americans for Marriage Equality

State ResourcesTennessee

Status: Constitutional amendment bans marriage equality.

On March 14, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger ordered Tennessee state officials to recognize the out-of-state marriages of three same-sex couples. Judge Trauger did not stay her ruling, noting that the plaintiff couples would likely be victorious. The Sixth Circuit later stayed the ruling. The couples in Tanco v. Haslam are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Abby Rubenfeld, the law firm of Sherrard & Roe, Maureen Holland, and Regina Lambert. The case was argued on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on August 6th, alongside cases from Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. 

On November 6, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals broke a string a victories for equality by upholding four state marriage bans in Tennessee as well as Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio. The long-awaited decision was handed down by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, who - as expected - wrote the opinion for the 2-1 majority. Sutton cited the 1972 SCOTUS case Baker v. Nelson - which dismissed a same-sex couple’s claim that they had a right to marriage - a dated case which other federal courts deemed irrelevant after the Supreme Court ruled against DOMA last year in Windsor. The legal team filed a petition for cert at the U.S. Supreme Court on November 14, which you can find here.

In the case Borman v. Borman, a same-sex couple married in Iowa is seeking a divorce in Tennessee. On August 5, 2014, a judge ruled against the couple, denying them a divorce and in the process, upheld the state’s ban on marriage rights for same-sex couples. The plaintiffs appealed the decision on September 16, 2014.