Same-sex couples challenging TN laws in federal lawsuit - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Same-sex couples challenging TN laws in federal lawsuit

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Several same-sex couples have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Tennessee's laws that deny recognition to legally married same-sex couples.

The state does not recognize legally married same-sex couples, so couples married in other states cannot come back here and have their marriages recognized.

Also, if one partner wants to take their partner's last name, they can change their Social Security card since the federal government recognizes same-sex unions but not their driver's licenses.

Sophy Jesty and Val Tanco expect their first child in March.

"When we got that positive, it was one of the happiest days in our lives," Tanco said.

They are both veterinarians in Knoxville and married in New York in 2011. But since moving to Tennessee, they're no longer considered married.

"What would you feel like if that happened to you? It's very surreal," Jesty said.

"We only have one Constitution in this country. It applies to us in Tennessee, as well as New Jersey, New York, anywhere else," said attorney Abby Rubenfeld. "These married couples are entitled to receive the same treatment as any other couples in Tennessee, and that's what's going to happen in this lawsuit."

Fourteen states have marriage equality, meaning same-sex married couples have legal rights that unmarried people don't have.

For example, in Tennessee, should Tanco die, Jesty has no legal right to their baby.

"I would not legally in the state of Tennessee, not be considered the other parent of that child," Jesty said.

Gay couples in Tennessee also lose out on tax benefits and family insurance coverage.

But what really frightens Kellie Miller and Vanessa Devillez, of Greenbrier, is having no legal right to make decisions - or even see each other - in a medical emergency.

"The hospital visitation really frighten us," Miller said. "You're already in a situation where you're panicked and worried, and there's an emergency, and you never know what tomorrow will be."

Rubenfeld said she hopes that once same-sex marriages from other states are legally recognized in Tennessee, the next step will be allowing gays to get married in Tennessee.

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