On the same day New Jersey became the 14th state to allow same-sex marriage, four same-sex Tennessee couples filed a federal lawsuit against the Volunteer state in hopes of gaining legal recognition of their marriages.

The four couples taking part in this lawsuit were married in New York or California before relocating to Tennessee.

Sophy Jesty and Valeria Tanco, one of the couples filing the lawsuit, are both professors at UT's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"We met in Ithaca, N.Y., and got married in 2011," Jesty said. "After we got married, we were offered jobs here at UT's vet school. While we were aware of Tennessee's laws against gay marriage, overall we decided it was a good professional move for us and that it was worth it."

Now that the couple is expecting their first child within the next few weeks, state recognition of their marriage has become a more pressing issue.

"Our marriage going unrecognized has huge repercussions on our family," Jesty said. "The biggest one is healthcare decision making. I can't make decisions on Val's behalf or on Amelia's (their daughter) behalf. It's a big deal not to have that legal protection. ... There's also a matter of just being socially recognized.

"Every day that goes by that the state does not recognize our marriage, it's a little bit of a slur against same-sex couples from same-sex families who exist in every state in this country.

"It's a hurtful thing."

The lawsuit comes on the heels of Senate Bill 2566, Tennessee's version of Arizona's "Turn Away the Gays" bill. The bill was rejected in a senate committee earlier this year.

"There was thankfully such a response to it; in this day and age, to consider passing a bill that allows for discrimination against any group of people is absolutely appalling," Jesty said. "The oddest thing to me is the impression that other people are losing if we gain rights. I don't understand what another person is losing if I gain rights with a family. I'm not taking away their rights; their legal rights aren't changing."

Regina Lambert, the lawyer representing Jesty and Tanco, said recent legislation in Texas and Arizona provides hope for couples facing similar circumstances.

"Arizona vetoing the 'Turn Away the Gays' bill was monumental," Lambert said. "In regards to SB2566, I feel like this ground has been plowed before; it sounds very similar to Jim Crow, and we've dealt with that. We're very happy that the legislation was stopped. It really seems that the majority of people now have a positive response to same-sex couples.

"I think this shift in thinking in the modern youth of today has really made all of the difference. When you can put yourself in other people's positions, that changes the world."

Religion is often cited as justification for denying legal marriage status to same-sex couples. But Tanco, who identifies as Roman Catholic, cites religion's fundamental tenets as the basis for marriage equality.

"The message that I've taken away always — even before I came out to myself — was that religion was, above all, about love," Tanco said.

"I'm trying to love the person I've chosen to be with for the rest of my life. The fact that I can't legally do that, that it's not recognized by this country's laws, is leaving out the very fundamental thing about religion – love. Recognition of love."