Recognition of same-sex unions in Tennessee

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Legal recognition of
same-sex relationships
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*Not yet in effect

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Same-sex marriage in Tennessee is currently not legal in the state.

Same-sex marriage[edit]

Non-binding resolutions[edit]

On March 25, 2013, Tennessee Senate voted 32-0 in favor of the resolution SJR 134, which makes August 31 Traditional Marriage Day in Tennessee. On April 18, 2013, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted 89-0 in favor of the resolution. On May 2, 2013, Governor Bill Haslam signed the resolution into law.[1]


In 1996, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a ban on same-sex marriage.[2]


On May 6, 2004, the Tennessee House of Representatives approved by a vote of 85-5 in favor of Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state. On May 19, 2004, the Tennessee State Senate approved by a vote of 28-1 in favor of the bill. On February 28, 2005, the Tennessee State Senate approved by a vote of 29-3 in favor of the bill. On March 17, 2005, the Tennessee House of Representatives approved by a vote of 88-7 in favor of the bill.[3] On November 7, 2006, Tennessee voters approved of the amendment by a vote of 81.3% to 18.7%.[4]

Federal lawsuit[edit]

Tanco v. Haslam[edit]

Main article: Tanco v. Haslam

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, on behalf of same-sex couples in Tennessee, filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court. The case, Tanco v. Haslam, seeks to require state recognition of their marriages. On March 14, 2014, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger granted a preliminary injunction requiring the state to recognize the marriages of the three plaintiff couples.[5] Tanco has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. A three-judge panel heard oral arguments in the case on August 6, 2014, along with same-sex marriage cases stemming from Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky.[6]

State lawsuit[edit]

Borman v. Pyles-Borman[edit]


On August 5, 2014, Tennessee Circuit Court Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr. ruled in this case from a same-sex couple seeking the dissolution of their marriage. The judge not only denied the same-sex couple their request for a divorce, but he also upheld Tennessee's ban on marriage for same-sex couples, the first judge to do so in nearly fourteen months.[6]

Domestic partnerships[edit]

Certain jurisdictions in Tennessee provide for the creation of private domestic partnership contracts agreements.[7] Governor Bill Haslam and State House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick both said there was no huge demand for domestic partnerships in Tennessee.[8]

Map of Tennessee counties and cities that offer domestic partner benefits either county-wide or in particular cities.
  City offers domestic partner benefits
  County-wide partner benefits through domestic partnership
  County or city does not offer domestic partner benefits

Memphis has an effort underway to provide domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples.[citation needed]


In August 2013, Collegedale City Commission voted 4-1 in favor of allowing domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples in the city of Collegedale. It went into effect on January 1, 2014.[9]


In October 2013, the mayor of Knoxville, Madeline Rogero, created a domestic partnership program for the city. It went into effect on January 1, 2014.[10]


On November 12, 2013, the Chattanooga City Council voted 5-4 in favor of allowing domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples in the city of Chattanooga.[11] On November 19, 2013, the city council in a final vote, voted 5-3 in favor of allowing domestic partnership benefits.[12]

Before the domestic partnership ordinance went into effect,[13] the Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency, a local segment of the Tea Party, gathered enough signatures to put repeal of the ordinance to a popular vote in August 2014.[14][15] The city council did not repeal the ordinance on its own, allowing the vote to proceed on August 7, the general election date for Hamilton County.[16]

A December 2013 Multi-Quest poll found that 53% Chattanooga registers voters opposed the city ordinance allowing domestic partnerships and adding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to the city’s nondiscrimination policy, while 37% supported.[17]

On August 7, 2014, the voters of Chattanooga repealed Ordinance 12781 was by a vote of 62.58% in favor and 37.42% against.[18]

Nashville and Davidson County[edit]

On June 17, 2014, the Metro Council voted 27-7, in a third and final reading, in favor of allowing domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples in the city of Nashville and Davidson County. On June 25, 2014, Mayor Karl Dean signed the ordinance into law.[19][20]

Public opinion[edit]

A March 2013 poll by Middle Tennessee State University showed 62% of respondents oppose same-sex marriage, with 28% in support.[21]

A May 2013 poll by Vanderbilt University survey of Tennessee registered voters found that 49% of Tennessee voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 32% supporting same-sex marriage, 17% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 46% favoring no legal recognition, 3% said they don't know, and 2% refused to answer. It also found that 69% of Tennessee voters under the age of 30 supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples.[22] A separate question on the same survey found that 62% of Tennessee voters supported domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples, 31% opposed, 4% said they don't know, and 2% refused to answer.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SJR 134". Open:States. 
  2. ^ State Laws Prohibiting Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships
  3. ^ Bill Information for SJR0031. Tennessee General Assembly.
  4. ^ New York Times: Monica Davey, "The 2006 Elections: Ballot Initiatives," November 9, 2006, accessed April 9, 2011
  5. ^ Snow, Justin (March 14, 2014). "Tennessee ordered to recognize same-sex couples' marriages". Metro Weekly. Retrieved March 14, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Tennessee Marriage Lawsuits
  7. ^ "Domestic Partnerships". She Moskovitz & Mcghee. 
  8. ^ "No Tennessee plans for same-sex benefits". September 8, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Collegedale first TN city to offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners". Aug 6, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Knoxville expanding employee benefits to same-sex, domestic partners". WBIR. October 17, 2013. 
  11. ^ "City Council Passes Controversial Domestic Partners Ordinance". November 12, 2013. 
  12. ^ "In final vote, Chattanooga City Council approves same sex benefits". November 19, 2013. 
  13. ^ "City Ordinance Ready That Grants "Domestic Partners" Same Healthcare, Medical Benefits". November 1, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Chattanooga Tea Party Hosting Forum on Domestic Partnership Ordinance". November 15, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Petitions block Chattanooga's new domestic partner benefits law". December 14, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Chattanooga residents to vote on domestic partner benefits". January 8, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Poll: Chattanooga voters oppose domestic partnership ordinance". January 8, 2014. 
  18. ^ Ordinance 12781
  19. ^ "Metro Council approves domestic partner benefits". The Tennessean. June 17, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2014. 
  20. ^ Mayor Signs Domestic Partner Benefits Into Law
  21. ^ "Poll: 62 percent in Tennessee against gay marriage". The Knoxville News Sentinel. March 5, 2013. 
  22. ^ "In Tennessee, Gay Marriage Has Young Doubting Republicans". Bloomberg. Jun 3, 2013. 
  23. ^ "END OF LEGISLATIVE SESSION 2013". Vanderbilt University. May 14, 2013.