Tanco v. Haslam

What's Happening:

On January 16, the United States Supreme Court granted review of the out-of-step ruling from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals about the freedom to marry in Tennessee. The case will be heard on April 28th, with a ruling expected by June 2015, which could bring the freedom to marry nationwide.

The review was granted in a petition for a writ of certiori filed on November 14, 2014 by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and private attorneys Abby Rubenfield, Maureen Holland, and Regina Lambert, and the law firm of Sherrard & Roe. Shortly after, the state of Tennessee filed a response opposing review from the Court.

This petition sought review of a November 6 ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which reversed a lower court ruling in this federal case seeking respect for marriages legally performed in other states in Tennessee. The out-of-step decision ignored nearly 50 pro-marriage rulings since June 2013 - it's time for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn this decision and rule in favor of the freedom to marry nationwide.

Case Background:

On October 21, 2013, the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of three legally married same-sex couples seeking respect for their marriages in Tennessee, where they now live. The lawsuit challenges Tennessee laws that restrict marriage to different-sex couples. 

Each of the three couples had previously lived outside of Tennessee and legally married in freedom to marry states.

NCLR's Legal Director, Shannon Minter explained, “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.”

On March 14, 2014, Judge Trauger ruled that the state must respect the marriages of these plaintiff couples, writing: "At this point, all signs indicate that, in the eyes of the United States Constitution, the plaintiffs’ marriages will be placed on an equal footing with those of heterosexual couples and that proscriptions against same-sex marriage will soon become a footnote in the annals of American history."

The state of Tennessee has appealed the ruling to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, requesting that a stay be placed on the decision. On March 20, Judge Trauger denied the motion to stay, but on April 25, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the defendants' request for a stay as the appeal proceeds.

On August 6, the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit will hear oral arguments in the appeal of this case, in which U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger ruled that state officials must respect the marriages of three same-sex couples whose lawsuit challenges the state’s marriage ban in March 2014. 

Borman v. Pyles-Borman

What's Happening:

On August 5, 2014, Tennessee Circuit Court Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr. ruled in this case from a same-sex couple seeking the dissolution of their marriage. The judge not only denied the same-sex couple their request for a divorce, but he also upheld Tennessee's ban on marriage for same-sex couples, the first judge to do so in nearly fourteen months. 

Case Background:

This case was filed by private counsel in state court on behalf of Frederick Michael Borman and Larry Kevin Pyles-Borman. 

In the ruling (below), Judge Simmons said, "The Court finds that marriage is a fundamental right. However, neither the Tennessee Supreme Court nor the United States Supreme Court have ever decided that this fundamental right under a state's law extends beyond the traditional definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman." 36 other rulings, however, disagree with Judge Simmons' assessment. 

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