Legal Expert Weighs In On Same Sex Marriage In Tennessee

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(Memphis) From the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to those in front of the Cecil B. Humpreys Law School at the University of Memphis, law students and legal experts are weighing in on the ruling on same-sex marriage.

Nigel Mitchell-Thornton is a student with the Tennessee Institute for Pre-Law program at the University of Memphis.

"I was actually surprised how quickly it came up to this ruling, but I think in the next few years we'll see more on the case and the controversy," Mitchell-Thornton said.

Steve Mulroy is a University of Memphis law professor. He's closely followed the same-sex marriage debate.

"This is a huge victory for the Gay Rights Movement. There's no question about it," Mulroy said.

The Supreme Court's decisions struck down a federal law denying recognition of same-sex unions and left the door open for gays and lesbians to wed once again in California.

But how will the ruling impact those in Tennessee where gay marriage is banned?

"Any couple in Tennessee that had a gay marriage from another state and is living here now, they'll be helped because they'll get full federal benefits, social security benefits, tax benefits, everything," Mulroy said.

Legal experts say the decision is clear about many issues, but it still raises a lot of questions in Tennessee.

"Where the ambiguity comes in what about the states that still don't recognize gay marriage and what about a couple that moves from one state to another where they were married and suddenly not married. What happens to them?" Mulroy said.

Even though the high court has spoken on this day, many expect legal challenges on the state level.

"Some number of years from now there might be a challenge to Tennessee's ban on gay marriage and there's a chance this decision would be used to help in such a challenge," Mulroy said.

Voters in a 2006 referendum passed the Tennessee Marriage Protection Amendment. it specifies only a marriage between a man and a woman can be legally recognized in the state. It was approved by 81 percent of the voters in that election.

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