One Chattanooga couple fighting for their same-sex marriage to be recognized has returned Thursday from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio, where federal judges are hearing cases regarding gay marriage bans in four states, including Tennessee.
The couple drove up to Cincinatti to represent their belief of equal rights, a polarized debate on both sides. After getting married in Washington, D.C., they said they want to make their union legal where they live.
"So, for us in our minds and to the federal government, we've changed as a couple. We're now committed to each other legally," said Megan Smith, a real estate agent.
But Tennessee sees the two as strangers, not spouses.
"Even if we fill out a living will, advance directives and have that filed with an attorney, our families, if they chose to, could still override that through the court system," said Lindsey Smith, who works as a nurse.
That's why three other Tennessee same-sex couples are suing the state and went to Ohio to argue their cases before federal judges. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinatti held a hearing Tuesday and Wednesday on gay marriage bans in four states, including Tennessee. The lawsuit did not challenge state laws barring same-sex marriage, only laws that prohibit recognizing out-of-state marriages.
The Smiths were there as attorneys presented the case for marriage equality.
"To stand up and say we may face discrimination, hate, even employment termination, but we're not scared to stand here and publicly support equality...it was so powerful to hear some of those stories," said Megan Smith.
But state lawyers who want to uphold the ban said it protects opposite-sex marriages and argue the purpose of marriage is for procreation.
"It's not. It's so much more than that. Yes, it's part of it, and yes, you want children to grow up in a loving home," said Megan Smith. "But some many children don't have a mom and a dad that have either."
At least one of the three federal judges showed skepticism for recognizing the issue, but the couple said they are optimistic the court will rule in their favor.
"I want to know that we were on the right side of history and that we can be proud 10, 20, 30 years from now for what we stood for," said Megan Smith.
It's unclear when a decision will come down. If the 6th Circuit Court decides against gay marriage, then that will pressure the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue for everyone.By Briona Arradondo