A same-sex couple was denied the ability to divorce in their residing state of Tennessee by a judge citing state law. Roane County Circuit Judge Russel E. Simmons Jr. declined a request to divorce for two men who were married four years ago in Iowa, because Tennessee does not recognize same-sex marriage.
Judge Simmons’ ruling upholds the voter-passed Tennessee marriage law that says marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Additionally, Tennessee state law considers out-of-state gay marriage to be “void and unenforceable.”
As Judge Simmons states in his verdict, the U.S. Supreme Court has not ordered states to recognize other jurisdictions’ same-sex marriages, nor has it deemed Tennessee’s state laws unconstitutional. He also emphasizes that although marriage is a fundamental right, neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor the Tennessee Supreme Court has “ever decided that this fundamental right” extends to same-sex couples.
Frederick Michael Borman first filed for divorce from Larry Kevin Pyles-Borman in March of this year, less than one year after settling in Tennessee. The couple is unable to divorce in Iowa because they no longer reside in that state.
Borman’s attorney says his client is reviewing his options and looking into the possibility of an appeal.
Judge Simmons made the controversial ruling on August 5th, just as the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals was preparing to hear arguments from gay plaintiffs challenging the historical marriage laws in place in four different states, including Tennessee. On August 6th, a panel of Circuit Court judges listened to arguments in four cases in which the plaintiffs contested the constitutionality of marriage laws that did not permit same-sex unions