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Federal judge rules Tennessee must recognize same-sex marriages of plaintiffs involved in federal challenge, at least temporarily

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A federal judge in Tennessee has issued a preliminary injunction requiring state officials to legally recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples who are plaintiffs in a challenge to the state’s ban on recognition of marriages performed outside the state.

Buzzfeed reports:

A federal judge in Tennessee Friday ordered state officials to recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples during the consideration of their lawsuit challenging the validity of the state’s ban on recognizing such marriages.

In considering the request for a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger wrote that “all relevant federal authority indicates that the plaintiffs in this case are indeed likely to prevail on their claims that the Anti-Recognition Laws are unconstitutional.”

The preliminary injunction was requested in November, and the plaintiffs asked for a status update in the case this month. Yesterday, EqualityOnTrial reported that the judge noted that a decision was being worked on.

The opinion announcing the reasoning for granting the preliminary injunction is here. The judge wrote:

At this point, all signs indicate that, in the eyes of the United States Constitution, the plaintiffs’ marriages will be placed on an equal footing with those of heterosexual couples and that proscriptions against same-sex marriage will soon become a footnote in the annals of American history.

Tanco v. Haslam was filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). The order granting the injunction is here. The injunction itself is here.

Thanks to Kathleen Perrin for these filings

For more information on Tanco v. Haslam from The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, click here.


  • 1. Rik  |  March 14, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Holy wow!!

  • 2. Zack12  |  March 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    And the victories just keep on coming!

  • 3. davep  |  March 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Not to make this 'all about me' or anything, but today just happens to be my birthday and reading this news is a really nice little gift. Congrats to the plaintiffs!!!

  • 4. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Happy birthday!

  • 5. Ann_S  |  March 14, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Happy Birthday! You share a birthday with Sir Michael Caine, Albert Einstein and my father-in-law. And Happy Pi Day!

  • 6. sfbob  |  March 14, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Good news to begin the weekend.

  • 7. Corey from Maryland  |  March 14, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    NOM is going to shit a brick…

  • 8. Straight Ally #3008  |  March 15, 2014 at 5:18 am

    Please, they could build themselves a brick house at this point. 😉

  • 9. Dr. Z  |  March 15, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    A colonial-style brick house, with a picket fence out front (whitewashed, of course.)

  • 10. bayareajohn  |  March 15, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Three jokes in one line. Kudos!

  • 11. KarlS  |  March 14, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    WOOT!!! The haters & bigots are running smack out of places to "protect". (Have any of them ever managed to explain what they're 'protecting'?

  • 12. palerobber  |  March 17, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    protecting state priviledging of religious traditions?

  • 13. Pat  |  March 14, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    So… The 3 marriages of the plaintiffs are temporarily recognized because the judge is lilely to rule in their favor. Now what happens when (if) the judge indeed rules in their favor? Does it only hold for the plaintifs or would that be a statewide marriage equality ruling?

  • 14. Ann_S  |  March 14, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    It will depend on the basis for the judge's ruling.

  • 15. Ragavendran  |  March 14, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Agree with Ann_S. Also, as the judge points out, by the time she enters a final judgment in this case, she will likely have the "benefit of additional precedent from circuit courts and, perhaps, the Supreme Court". If, at that time, she finds the law to be unconstitutional, more likely than not, it will be a statewide ruling.

  • 16. Lymis  |  March 15, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Not a lawyer, but in this (general) sort of thing, the answer depends on the basis of the ruling. If somehow, the basis is unique to the plaintiffs, then it would only apply to them – which is generally reserved to the specifics, say, of a contract or a company's hiring rules, or whatever.

    If, on the other hand, the basis is that the Constitution requires that all similarly situated people be granted a particular right or status, then even though the case itself applies only to the plaintiffs, the ruling would have a broader applicability, and with a ruling that's either already been supported on appeal or which won't be appealed, the assumption is that all similar lawsuits would be answered similarly.

    In a case like marriage, ruling that the state has to modify its laws and issue marriage licenses regardless of the gender of the applicants so that the specific plaintiffs can marry would open it to everyone else. It's the difference between ruling, for example, that the plaintiff has to be given a private key to a door or ruling that the door cannot be there at all – the first lets only the plaintiffs in, the second removes the barrier for all, even if it's "just" a ruling for the plaintiffs.

    Still, it's odd that this isn't a class action suit, or being treated like one. Anyone know why?

  • 17. Dr. Z  |  March 15, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I'm thinking the judge issued the limited relief to grant the plaintiff's request without triggering a Utah-style stampede.

  • 18. Ragavendran  |  March 14, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    More to come out of Tennessee:
    "Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld said she and her colleagues are preparing a lawsuit that would recognize gay, married couples in a number of situations — those who live here but were married outside the state, and those who want to end their marriages but can’t obtain a divorce, and those denied typical probate proceedings because their spouses died."

  • 19. Sagesse  |  March 14, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Obama Administration Orders Some Insurers To Cover Gay Spouses [Huffington Post]

  • 20. Ragavendran  |  March 14, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    An "in your face" footnote from the memorandum:
    "The state has taken the position that the plaintiffs’ fears, including those of Dr. Tanco and Dr. Jesty with respect to the upcoming birth of their baby and their rights in their home should one of them die, are “speculative,” “conjectural,” and “hypothetical.” But the court need not wait, for instance, for Dr. Tanco to die in childbirth to conclude that she and her spouse are suffering or will suffer irreparable injury from enforcement of the Anti-Recognition Laws."

  • 21. davep  |  March 15, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Indeed! It's as if the court were telling the state "sheeesh, listen to yourselves. Do you really have to be such jerks about this?"

  • 22. Steve  |  March 15, 2014 at 10:13 am

    And it's not like there isn't more than enough empirical evidence from other states about what can happen in such situations.

  • 23. Dr. Z  |  March 15, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    So now it's "mere speculation" that everyone dies sooner or later?

  • 24. ebohlman  |  March 15, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Shhhhh. If the teabaggers hear any hint that death isn't inevitable, they'll start to think taxes aren't either.

  • 25. Rick O.  |  March 14, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    New NOM fundraiser: "Your cancelled check will serve as a momento of a footnote in the annals of American history".

  • 26. Zack12  |  March 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    On a different note, lawyers for the bigots in Wisconsin are telling the judge to butt out of the lawsuit.
    Fat chance of that happening.

  • 27. Straight Ally #3008  |  March 15, 2014 at 5:20 am

    What, is that the hold-your-breath-until-you-get-your-way strategy?

  • 28. Deeelaaach  |  March 15, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    No, that's the "ignore certain parts of the Constitution that don't fit their argument at the moment" strategy. No, wait, it's both strategies. Also the very similar "stick your head in the sand and hope it goes away" strategy.

  • 29. USA, Tennessee: Federal J&hellip  |  March 15, 2014 at 6:46 am

    […] Equality on Trial reports: […]

  • 30. Craig Nelson  |  March 15, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Reading all of these rulings coming out (and with bated breath on Michigan) is a little like standing near a train track and hearing the rumbling of an oncoming just before the train arrives. For those sitting on the tracks, now is a good time to step away…

  • 31. Straight Ally #3008  |  March 16, 2014 at 7:38 am

    In that regard, NOM and company are like the spice miners in Frank Herbert's Dune, waiting until the last possible moment before the sandworms arrive to blast off with their precious cargo. /nerd

  • 32. jenny  |  March 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

    We live in interesting times. the fire is sure spreading fast

  • 33. Seth From Maryland  |  March 15, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    i found this poll in Italty very interesting , it's a poll from last year: a May 2013 Ipsos poll found that 48% of respondents were in favour of same-sex marriage and another 31% supported other forms of recognition for same-sex couples, that means Italty should be crossing the 50% this year . the governement soon will take up civil partnerships this year an it will likely finally pass, but i think the ppl are ready to go beyoned civil partnerships.

  • 34. Straight Ally #3008  |  March 16, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Civil partnerships will be a first step, as in several states here, and Pope Francis might even give it some level of approval, the way he has been talking.

  • 35. Sagesse  |  March 16, 2014 at 8:06 am

    Trying to understand the theological gymnastics of the Roman Catholic Church is an invitation to a lengthy stay in a padded cell… and I am a lapsed Catholic.

    That said, if the Church's position on sexual orientation and marriage equality is based in the prohibition of any non-procreative and/or extramarital sex, how in the name of their God do they contemplate approving civil partnerships whose purpose is obviously (?) to recognize a relationship that is, among other things, a sexual relationship? The logic gap is bigger than the map of Italy?

  • 36. Eric  |  March 16, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    They can support it for the same reasons why they have put no efforts into banning divorce.

  • 37. Seth From Maryland  |  March 16, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Taipei is now so close to being the first Asian country were marriage equality becomes law , it's third and final reading on the marriage equality bill is expected soon

  • 38. Randolph Finder  |  March 16, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Taipei is a city, not a country…

  • 39. Seth From Maryland  |  March 16, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    yea sorry about thati ment Taiwan

  • 40. StraightDave  |  March 17, 2014 at 5:50 am

    In partial defense, it doesn't help when the rest of the world is doing it's best to muddy the waters. The IOC officially refers to Taiwan as "Chinese Taipei" in Olympic competitions, and that is the name they must compete under. The team marches behind an special Chinese Taipei flag that the IOC approved, not their own genuine national flag.
    Just wimpy ass-kissing to the mainland Chinese gov't.

  • 41. mgiacomossi  |  March 16, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Very positive!<img src="; height="1" width="1" />

  • 42. Pat  |  March 17, 2014 at 5:33 am

    So last week, the 9th circuit finally scheduled the oral arguments for the Sevcik case for April 9th, and shortly thereafter withdrew that date… And now still nothing?? Come on guys, can't you make up your mind and pick a date?
    No wonder this circuit is said to be the slowest of all. Getting very frustrating.

  • 43. StraightDave  |  March 17, 2014 at 6:34 am

    One of my favorite lines in the TN injunction is "… this rising tide of persuasive post-Windsor federal caselaw". The judges are all reading the same things we are, and it's all extremely one-sided. It may be gradual now, but one solid circuit court ruling will turn the tide into a tsumani. I expect the Circuit court rulings to be viewed even more persuasively than the Districts. The exceptions, if any, will be few and far between.

  • 44. Equality On TrialNotice o&hellip  |  March 18, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    […] recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the state, have fled their notice of appeal of the district court’s decision in favor of the same-sex […]

  • 45. Equality On TrialSixth Ci&hellip  |  August 7, 2014 at 1:42 am

    […] district court judge overseeing the case granted a preliminary order requiring the state to recognize the marriages of the plaintiff couples only, while the case […]

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