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Lesbian couple named mother and father on daughter’s Tenn. birth certificate

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
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Emilia Maria Jesty with her birth “father” Sophy Jesty.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A baby girl born to same-sex parents who are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s ban on same-sex marriage, is the first child in the state to have two mothers listed on her birth certificate.

Emilia Maria Jesty was born last month, just after U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger issued a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing laws prohibiting recognition of the three same-sex couples who brought the suit.

Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty were married in New York in 2011 and now live in Knoxville, where they teach at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

They are among scores of gay and lesbian couples nationwide who, working with advocacy groups, have filed lawsuits to expand same-sex marriage rights following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June that opened the door to federal marriage benefits for married, same-sex couples.

The state of Tennessee has appealed Trauger’s ruling the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and depending on the outcome of the appellate court’s ruling, it is expected that Tanco and Jesty’s case or a similar challenge could reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

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“It’s the first nail in the coffin of discriminating against same-sex married couples in Tennessee,” said Abby Rubenfeld, one of the attorneys for the same-sex couples. “Every single court that has considered these same issues has ruled the same way.”

Tanco, who gave birth to Emilia, is listed as the baby’s mother; Jesty is listed on the birth certificate under “father” since Tennessee birth certificates are not gender neutral.

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.

Follow this case: Tanco v. Haslam.

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