Army Reserve sergeant is legally married while at work, but not at home

Thomas Kostura, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Ijpe DeKoe at their Memphis, Tenn. apartment.

Thomas Kostura, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Ijpe DeKoe at their Memphis, Tenn. apartment. Karen Pulfer Focht, AP

Thomas Kostura, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Ijpe DeKoe at their Memphis, Tenn. apartment. Karen Pulfer Focht, AP

Thomas Kostura, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Ijpe DeKoe at their Memphis, Tenn. apartment.

This article is one in a series showcasing the families who are plaintiffs in the marriage equality cases that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28. Read more here.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Thom Kostura and his husband take lots of road trips, and each time they cross a state line they make a game of declaring “We’re married!” or “We’re not married!” – depending on whether the state recognizes same-sex marriage.

“I wish we could register for gifts every time we cross a state line,” Kostura cracks.

A similar situation occurs every time Sgt. 1st Class Ijpe deKoe leaves the Millington, Tennessee, base where he serves in the Army Reserve. On base, his marriage to Kostura is recognized. At home in Memphis, it isn’t.

DeKoe and Kostura met as teenagers working as Boy Scout camp counselors. They dated briefly after camp and remained friends, seeing each other whenever Kostura was in Providence, Rhode Island, or deKoe was in New York. They started dating again in 2011. Then “things got rushed very quickly,” Kostura said.

DeKoe got short notice to deploy to Afghanistan that summer. In August, while he was on a three-day pass, the couple went to a courthouse in New York and tied the knot.

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After his return, deKoe was stationed in Millington, where he manages training for two Civil Affairs companies and is completing a degree in international studies at the University of Memphis. Kostura expects to receive a master’s degree this spring at the Memphis College of Art.

“We didn’t have a choice as far as coming to Tennessee,” deKoe said. They like Memphis, which Kostura calls “a great city to be an artist in,” but don’t like not having the same rights as other married couples.

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