After the U.S. Supreme Court Rules That Same-Sex Marriage is Legal Nationwide, Lawyers are Grappling with New Issues Affecting Couples


On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the law of the land is that states must allow same-sex couple to marry and must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. This is a watershed civil-rights ruling that closes the gap created in the Windsor decision in that same-sex married couples could immigrate a spouse under U.S. Immigration Law, but those marriages were not recognized in many states. These couples ironically were married under federal law but not in their states of residence depending on where they resided or if they crossed state lines.
The recent decision recognizes that societal norms have changed drastically and that the question is not an “us and them” issue, the Supreme Court recognized that most Americans have family, friends, neighbors and church associations with people involved in same-sex relationships. The decision brightly speaks of healthy family relationships with same-sex parents and now clarifies that the fundamental right to a family is without barriers.
This decision follows years of litigation in the courts not only in all U.S. States, but is similar to the Mexican Supreme Court decision which affected many of this writer’s clients who were also restricted by the patchwork of recognition and prohibitions in the states of that country. However, the Mexico decision merely held that prohibitions on same-sex marriages were discriminatory and further litigation is in the works to declare the legality of marriages.
Today, on July 2, 2015, this writer attended a continuing legal education for attorneys led by the lawyers who represented the Tennessee case that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court in Tanco v. Haslam. Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) President, Attorney Bill Harbison, Abbey Rubenfeld, and Regina Lambert reviewed the case and how it has affected residents in Tennessee.


The panel discussed the long path thorough the court system and the meticulous planning and strategy to get the case to the Supreme Court to rule on granting marriage licenses and recognizing marriages. The court held in a 5-4 opinion that marriage is a fundamental right under the law: period. Marriage safeguards children and families and all two-person unions are important. In the words of Justice Kennedy this case is “about equal dignity under the Constitution”.
In Tennessee, the Attorney General’s office and local county clerks were ready for the Supreme Court decision. On the same day as the announcement, the first same-sex couples were married in Nashville by 1 p.m. and marriages were performed across the state.



The remaining legal issues the panel discussed relate to prior marriages and the law prior to the decision. For example, “Do inheritance rights retroactively vest since June 26, 2015?” ; “Can a spouse bring a wrongful death case in the name of a spouse where the marriage occurred prior to the Supreme Court decision?” ; “Do couples have the right to title property in the entireties retroactively ” ; “What rights do spouses have in IRA accounts established prior to the decision ?”


Retroactivity referred to by these questions relates to whether previous rights or obligations are affected by the new law making same sex marriage legal in all states.


Tennessee courts are immediately experiencing same-sex divorce and adoptions following the Supreme Court case. The fact that Tennessee was involved in a case of such great magnitude is due to the hard work of these dedicated lawyers. This interesting discussion is available as a webinar to both licensed attorneys seeking CLE, as well as non-lawyers and may be accessed as a webinar for up to a year by registration online at the TBA CLE Portal.



Sean Lewis is a Nashville-based U.S. Immigration Attorney with local ties to Puerto Vallarta. He is the Chair of the TBA Immigration Law Section and handles many U.S. Consular cases including visa applications filed at Ciudad Juarez, Mexico City and Guadalajara. Sean is a contributor for a blog based in Puerto Vallarta regarding legal immigration issues. He may be reached at or by telephone within Mexico at 01 [335]004-2258 or in the U.S. at 615.226.5235 (615 ABOGADO).

T is For Temporary

By Sean Lewis, Immigration Attorney

T letter small
The word “temporary” should be taken as a word of caution when considering the executive action announced by President Obama in November. In other words, one ought to understand what executive action is and is not and should be fully aware of the possible future consequences before deciding to file an application. Since executive action is deferred deportation, it is no legal status nor is it permanent.

[tem*po*rary adjective tem-pó-rer-ē: continuing for a limited amount of time: not permanent]

Obama Announces Details Of $75 Billion Mortgage Relief Plan

On November 20, 2014 Obama acted within his power to order the Department of Homeland Security to focus resources on deporting serious criminals and not families from the United States. “Serious criminals” includes those with DUI or domestic violence criminal convictions. Paying the fines or serving time in jail will never make the conviction go away under immigration law-a conviction always remains a conviction under the law.

The government will begin accepting applications in the Spring of 2015. No one should pay anyone “to apply” for anything right now since no applications are being accepted.

To qualify for executive deferred action, two classes of people are involved. Both classes belong to people who have resided continuously in the United States since January 1, 2010, pay taxes and pass a criminal background check.

Those who do NOT qualify are: those with felony or significant misdemeanor criminal convictions, three (non-traffic) misdemeanor convictions, and those who after January 1, 2014 were ordered deported and failed to depart and those who re-enter the United States illegally after that date.

On approximately February 28, 2015, applications will be accepted for people who:

• Arrived in the U.S. before age 16;
• Graduated from a U.S. High School or obtain a GED certificate, or;
• Are registered in an approved course of study to receive a GED certificate, regardless of age.

On approximately May 20, 2014, applications will be accepted for people who:

• Before November 20, 2014 are the parents of U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident children.

During this deferred deportation status the benefits to the applicant include:
• The government will not deport the applicant for three years.
• Work authorization will be provided.
• One could obtain a Tennessee driver’s license and a social security number.

The risks of applying include:
• The next president could cancel this status and begin to deport the applicant in 2016.
• The next president could allow the deferred deportation status to expire in 2018 and the applicant will have informed the government of her undocumented status in this country..
• People who do not qualify will be placed into deportation proceedings once an application is denied.
• People who do not provide all the necessary documents required, or who fill out the forms incorrectly could be placed into deportation proceedings.

My recommendation is to proceed with extreme caution and first consult with a licensed immigration attorney before exposing oneself to the adverse consequence of deportation. Always check the disciplinary history and qualifications of an attorney online at: A good attorney will advise you of any other permanent forms of relief you will qualify for, or if you can apply for legal status if you are placed into deportation proceedings. A GREAT attorney will warn you of the consequences of filing and not just take your money.

My last recommendation is to NEVER use the illicit services of a person who calls himself a “notario publico”. A notary in the U.S. is not an attorney, has no authority to advise people what forms to fill out or and often steal the money and dreams of many non-English speakers in Tennessee. In Tennessee a notary is not even allowed to fill out immigration forms. DO NOT BE VICTIMS OF FRAUD, ILLEGAL SERVICES OR INCOMPETENCE. Avoid the advice of friends, people at churches or community organizations unless there is an actively-supervising licensed attorney with years of immigration experience present. These people may mean well, but they are not competent to render legal advice. We have seen many people who were deported because they attended workshops at community organizations and churches where lay people were involved in filling out of forms. These people will not understand what other options are available to you or be able to advise you about any of the risks involved. We have experienced that in the past, some group workshops cause more harm than good. There is no substitute for hiring en experienced immigration attorney who will know what amount of proof is required to file these applications in the first place. You get what you pay for!

Sean Lewis will conduct a training for lawyers about DAPA/DACA on December 10, 2014. Licensed attorneys may learn more about executive immigration reform by attending the Tennessee Bar Association CLE (webinar).

Sean Lewis is a Nashville immigration attorney with offices in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville and Memphis His state bar number is 021222 which may be checked at His phone number is (615) 226-4236 or he may be reached on Face Book at Music City Visa, or online at This article is not legal advice nor does it imply an attorney-client relationship exists with the reader.

Huntsville Online Immigration Law Office of Sean Lewis, PLLC, Abogado de Inmigración

If you are living in Huntsville, Alabama and seeking permanent residency in the United States, you can call on Immigration Attorney Sean Lewis to help.

The Law Office of Sean Lewis, PLLC, Immigration and Citizenship Attorney, is dedicated to the private practice of Immigration and Nationality Law. Sean Lewis is licensed in Tennessee. Our main office is located in Nashville, Tennessee, but consultations are also via. Skype and Face Time to our Huntsville Immigration Law clients. Call (256) 513-4490 to schedule your consultation. All consultations are confidential.We are available for consultations using video conferencing to meet our clients from around the world. We associate with local attorneys in cities across America and at all U.S. Consulates throughout the world.

Meet Sean Lewis

Huntsville Immigration Attorney Sean Lewis works with thousands of people in their quest to become legal citizens of the United States via. real-time video-conferencing.As a frequent speaker on many issues related to immigration law, Sean Lewis would be honored to help you through the process of attaining U.S. citizenship through naturalization, visas and green cards, and other needs.Sean Lewis, abogado de inmigración, is licensed in Tennessee and practices only Immigration Law. ¡El abogado de inmigración habla español corectamente!  Sean is fluent in Spanish.

  • Education — Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco, CA.Doctor of Jurisprudence May 2000. More Info…
  • Qualifications — Admitted: Tennessee Bar April 2001, Superior Court of California at Long Beach (pro hac vice), Circuit Court of Dallas, TX (pro hac vice) More Info…
  • Professional and Civic Activies — National Lawyer’s Guild (National Immigration Project), AILA Nashville and Tennessee Bar Associations. More Info…
  • Speeches and Publications — Sean Lewis has spoken as a panelist at events including Federal Bar Association at the Immigration Law Annual and the AILA Conference. More Info…

Contact Us

If you need help to make it happen, call us now at (256) 513-4490 (El abogado habla español). No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers. is an immigration attorney based in Nashville, Tennessee. He may be reached at 615-226-4236.

Knoxville Immigration Lawyer Sean Lewis, PLLC, Abogado de Inmigración

Knoxville, Tennessee residents seeking to achieve the “American dream” and needing a Knoxville immigration lawyer can turn to Sean Lewis for help. Our firm is dedicated to results-driven representation in all immigration matters.

We work with clients around the globe via our four Tennessee offices or through video conferencing. ¡El abogado habla español!

Assisting you starts with a call to 865.686.6462 to schedule a consultation at our Knoxville immigration law office located inside the Regus executive office suites. The Law Offices of Sean Lewis, PLLC, Abogado de Inmigracion, is dedicated to the private practice of Immigration and Nationality Law.

Meet Sean Lewis

Knoxville Immigration and Citizenship Attorney Sean Lewis, a frequent speaker on topics concerning immigration law, helps guide thousands of people through the legal channels to attain U.S. Citizenship or work through their visa problems.

Licensed in Tennessee, Sean Lewis focuses his practice on immigration law. Fluent in Spanish, he offers compassionate help to those who might otherwise be trapped by the legal system because they lack his expertise earned from his education and many years of experience in courtrooms and working within the bureaucracy.

  • Education — Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco, CA.Doctor of Jurisprudence May 2000. More Info…
  • Qualifications — Admitted: Tennessee Bar April 2001, Sixth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals May 2007, Superior Court of California at Long Beach (pro hac vice) More Info…
  • Professional and Civic Activies — Tennessee Bar Associations, AILA Nashville, National Lawyer’s Guild (National Immigration Project). More Info…
  • Speeches and Publications — Sean Lewis has spoken as a panelist at events including the AILA Conference, and Federal Bar Association at the Immigration Law Annual. More Info…

Contact Us

If you need help to make it happen, call us now at (865) 686-6462 (El abogado de inmigración habla español).