The Freedom to Marry in Tennessee

Winning Marriage: June 26, 2015

The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry nationwide on June 26, 2015, allowing all same-sex couples in Ohio the ability to marry once and for all. The decision followed more than a year of marriage litigation in the state, including one of the cases the Supreme Court ruled on, Tanco v. Haslam.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • 1996: The Tennessee legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples. Statutes also declare that marriage between one man and one woman is the only legally recognized marital contract, effectively disallowing civil union and domestic partnership.
  • November 7, 2006: Opponents of the freedom to marry in Tennessee push through Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry. The amendment cements clearly discriminatory language into the Tennessee Constitution.
  • 2006-2014: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Tennessee take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • May 2013: Polling in Tennessee tracks a marked growth in support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • October 21, 2013: Same-sex couples and the National Center for Lesbian Rights file a federal legal case seeking Tennessee recognition of marriages performed in other states, Tanco v. Haslam. Read the initial complaint – and meet the plaintiffs.
  • March 14, 2014: U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger rules in favor of the plaintiffs in Tanco v. Haslam, declaring that the state must respect these same-sex couples’ marriages. The case is appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Read the ruling.
  • November 6, 2014: The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rules against the freedom to marry in the Tennessee case and three others, becoming the first appellate court in years to do so and setting up a final legal showdown at the United States Supreme Court. Read the ruling.
  • January 16, 2015: The United States Supreme Court grants review of the out-of-step 6th Circuit ruling upholding marriage discrimination.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage for same-sex couples in a case that includes the Tanco case, bringing the freedom to marry to Tennessee – and the entire country – once and for all. Read the ruling here. 

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

Audio from the 6th Circuit Hearing on Tennessee's Marriage Ban