In 2006, Tennessee amended its state constitution to limit the legal definition of marriage to that between a man and a woman, and also prohibited the recognition of marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in other states. Proponents of the amendment grounded their support in biblical terms. Representative Bill Dunn, one of the amendment’s most prominent supporters, went so far as to write a newspaper article justifying the amendment using quotations from Scripture.
Three same-sex couples sued to invalidate Tennessee’s marriage ban. The federal trial court ruled for the couples, and the state appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In June 2014, we joined with the Anti-Defamation League and a broad array of religious and cultural groups to submit an amicus brief in support of the couples.
This case was one of several marriage-equality cases argued before the Sixth Circuit at the same time. In November 2014, the Sixth Circuit became the first federal court of appeals to uphold a state law banning same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court then agreed to hear the case.
In March 2015, we filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court refuting the argument, often made by advocates of marriage bans, that permitting same-sex marriage would harm religious liberty in the United States. We explain that existing law provides a framework for accommodating the rights of both same-sex couples and religious objectors, and that recognizing the equal dignity of same-sex couples would not pose a threat to religious liberty.
The case was argued in April 2015, alongside three other marriage cases: Bourke v. Beshear, DeBoer v. Snyder, and Obergefell v. Hodges.
In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who got married in other states.