Two moms, a baby and a legal first for U.S. gay marriage

Wed Apr 9, 2014 8:54am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Joan Biskupic

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Last month a baby in Tennessee made history: Emilia Maria Jesty was the first child born in the state to have a woman listed on the birth certificate as her "father."

The marital status of the baby's parents was the subject of a flurry of court filings up to a few days before her birth. Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty were wed in New York, a state that recognizes gay marriage, and moved to Tennessee, which does not.

They are among scores of same-sex couples who, working with advocacy groups, have filed lawsuits to expand gay-marriage rights following a major U.S. Supreme Court decision last June allowing federal tax and other benefits for same-sex married couples.

Depending on the pace of rulings, as early as next year Tanco and Jesty's case or a similar challenge could reach the Supreme Court. Since the court's June decision in U.S. v. Windsor, about 50 such cases have been filed, in nearly all 33 states that prohibit gay marriage.

So far, the eight federal judges who have ruled citing Windsor have sided with the same-sex couples, saying the states may not treat same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex ones. All of those cases are on appeal.

On Thursday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will begin hearing cases involving Utah and Oklahoma. In May, the 4th Circuit will hear a dispute from Virginia.

As Tanco approached her due date, a Nashville federal judge in mid-March issued a preliminary injunction forcing Tennessee to honor their marriage. The state appealed to the 6th Circuit.

It is possible a ruling against the couple could void Emilia's birth certificate and require that it be reissued with only Tanco listed. A spokeswoman for Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the state Health Department, which oversees birth certificates.   Continued...

Valeria Tanco (L), and Sophy Jesty pose with their new baby girl, Emilia, at their home in Knoxville, Tennessee April 7, 2014. REUTERS/Wade Payne