Judge Cites Tennessee State Law in Denying Same-Sex Divorce
A Tennessee judge has denied a same-sex divorce request for two men who married in the state of Iowa. Although the couple are now residents of Tennessee, they were declined the right to divorce because of a state law that does not recognize the validity of same-sex marriages.
Frederick Michael Borman and Larry Kevin Pyles-Borman tied the knot four years ago in Iowa, but eventually moved to Rockwood, Tennessee. The couple filed for divorce in March, within a year of their move. They can no longer divorce under Iowa divorce law without residing in the state for a set amount of time, so they requested a divorce in Tennessee despite the state’s refusal to recognize gay marriage. Tennessee state law also views out-of-state same-sex marriage as “void and unenforceable.”
Earlier this week, Roane County Circuit Judge Russel E. Simmons Jr. made a ruling that upholds the voter-passed Tennessee law, which refuses to acknowledge any marriage outside the traditional confines of a union between man and wife. Judge Simmons pointed out in his ruling that the Supreme Court has not said states must recognize same-sex marriages of other jurisdictions, nor has it labeled Tennessee’s state laws unconstitutional. Judge Simmons also said that neither the Supreme Court nor the Tennessee Supreme Court has “ever decided that this fundamental right” to marriage extends to include same-sex couples.
Borman’s lawyer says his client is considering his options, including the possibility of an appeal.
The controversial ruling was determined as a panel of judges of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals prepared to hear arguments in cases from Tennessee and three other states regarding same-sex marriage. On August 6, the four gay plaintiffs argued for their constitutional rights to marry.