Roane County Circuit Judge Russell E. Simmons Jr. declined to grant a divorce this month to a local same-sex couple married in Iowa four years ago.
After marrying, Frederick Michael Borman and Larry Kevin Pyles-Borman moved to Roane County, where they eventually separated and filed for divorce. However, Judge Simmons refused to recognize their same-sex marriage. His ruling is in keeping with the view of the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, which according to a spokesperson was pleased with the decision.
Gay couples around the country are running into similar difficulties as they find that states that refuse to recognize their marriages, which were performed in states that do recognize same-sex marriage, also refuse to grant divorces. Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., recognize same-sex marriages. Tennessee has banned same sex marriage through an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution and through a Tennessee statute.
Borman, who filed for divorce last spring, may have appellate options. However, the state of Tennessee has been notoriously inflexible when it comes to its same-sex marriage ban. Judge Simmons, in his ruling, insisted that the state Supreme Court would not consider the state’s refusal to recognize a same-sex marriage honored in another state a violation of the Constitution. He also noted that the Supreme Court does not find Tennessee’s definition of marriage only as a union between a man and a woman unconstitutional.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reviewing a section of Tennessee’s ban to determine whether the state has the right to decline to recognize a pre-existing same-sex marriage that is honored in other states.
To learn more about same-sex marriage and divorce laws in Tennessee, consult a skilled Knoxville family law attorney.