Knoxville couple sues Tennessee over gay marriage

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- Like most expecting parents, Dr. Valeria Tanco and Dr. Sophy Jesty are anxiously awaiting the birth of their first child.

"The first 3 or 4 times we saw the ultrasounds, we cried every time. It was jus so powerful," Jesty said.

Baby Emelia is due March 2014. She's one of the reasons they joined three other couples in a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee.

The lawsuit argues that Tennessee's laws violate the federal constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process.

In Tennessee, marriage between partners of the same gender is
prohibited by state law and constitutional amendment.

"Under the law, I'm not recognized as a parent. I might as well be a legal stranger to Val and to Emelia. That's really scary to me because it means I'm not permitted or legally protected to make decisions on Emelia's behalf, when in fact, I am one of her parents," Jesty said.

In 2011, the couple wed in New York shortly after the state legalized gay marriage. They then moved to East Tennessee to pursue their careers as professors at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

The couple told Local 8 News they've been shown nothing but love and support from family, friends and co-workers. They say they want the legal system to reflect today's society.

"There's a real serious disconnect between the reality of the situation," Jesty said. "We're here. Gay families are here. We're having children nowadays so we can't be legislated away. The point of this law is to make us feel like a second-class family."

They're not only hoping their commitment and love for one another is honored. They want their family unit to be protected.

"I just want Tennessee to recognize that our marriage carried out in New York is also valid here," Jesty said.

Their attorney Regina Lambert says it's unclear how long it will take. Lambert told Local 8 News they're ready to take on the challenge.

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