Appeals court takes up Knoxville couple’s same-sex marriage case

Tennesseans involved in the case stand outside the federal courthouse in Cincinnati.
Tennesseans involved in the case stand outside the federal courthouse in Cincinnati.

CINCINNATI (WATE/AP) – A federal appeals court in Cincinnati heard oral arguments Wednesday in two cases that could determine the future of same-sex marriages in Tennessee. One of the couples involved in the case is from Knoxville.

Dr. Sophy Jesty and Dr. Valeria Tanco, who are both professors at UT College of Veterinary Medicine, are fighting to have their out of state marriage recognized in Tennessee.

Previous story: Courtroom battle continues for Knoxville same-sex couple as they head to U.S. Court of Appeals

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals heard the couple’s case as part of a series of hearings on similar lawsuits across four states on Wednesday.

Attorneys representing multiple gay couples told judges that’s there’s no rational reason for barring same-sex marriage.

Protesters on both sides of the issue flocked to the courthouse.
Protesters on both sides of the issue flocked to the courthouse.

The attorney for three Tennessee same sex couples argued the state’s current law violates their constitutional rights as spouses and as parents. Two of the couples have children, and the state’s ban on recognizing same sex marriage prohibits them from legal protections for their kids.

“For any of us as parents that aren’t recognized as parents to our children for me that’s definitely the most poignant argument. It’s the most personal reason this is so important to me,” said Sophy Jesty.

Lawyers from the Tennessee governor’s office say the state has an economic interest in married couples having children.

A federal appeals judge hearing arguments said “it doesn’t look like the sky has fallen in” in other states that allow same-sex marriage.

Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey made the comment Wednesday in Cincinnati as she and two other judges on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals questioned lawyers on both sides during the biggest court session yet of federal legal battles over gay marriage. They were hearing cases from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Dr. Sophy Jesty and Dr. Valeria Tanco
Dr. Sophy Jesty and Dr. Valeria Tanco

Another judge, Jeffrey Sutton, repeatedly asked whether trying to get the issue changed before the U.S. Supreme Court was the right course instead of waiting for popular change.

The judges didn’t indicate when they would rule in the cases.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger issued an order requiring Tennessee to recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples. She also put that order on hold while a higher court weighs in on the case.

The lawsuit did not challenge laws barring same-sex marriage in Tennessee, only those that prohibit recognizing such marriages performed in other states.

6 News Reporter SAMANTHA MANNING contributed to this report.

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