Federal Judge Rules In Favor Of Three TN Same-Sex Couples
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A federal judge in Nashville said Tennessee must recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples while their lawsuit against the state goes through the legal system.
"The wording that really stuck out for me was the fact that we will most likely win on our merit," plaintiff Matthew Mansell said. "So that really shows that the state doesn't have a leg to stand on."
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger issued a preliminary injunction barring Tennessee from enforcing state laws that prohibit recognition of their marriages.
"It kicks open the door a little further on marriage equality," said Chris Sanders with the Tennessee Equality Project.
Judge Trauger said her order is only preliminary and would only apply to the three couples named in the lawsuit.
"We didn't want to sit on the sidelines and let someone else fight our battles," Mansell said. He married his husband, Johno Espejo in 2008 while they were living in San Francisco. A job transfer brought the couple and their children to Tennessee.
The three same-sex couples were legally married in other states. They filed a lawsuit challenging Tennessee's laws that prohibit recognition of their marriages. Sanders feels this is a good first step for supporters of same-sex marriage.
"It opens the door for further marriage rulings, we think. There are going to be other couples who will be able to show harm because of Tennessee's marriage discrimination amendment, and they're going to have that opportunity, I believe. I believe there will be further challenges," Sanders said.
The Family Action Council of Tennessee is against the idea of same-sex marriage in the state. It contends voters in Tennessee made it clear in 2006 when they voted to amend the state's constitution to ban same-sex couples from getting married.
"While today's decision by federal Judge Trauger is not a final ruling, she has clearly signaled her intent to continue the war by unelected federal judges against the rights of states and the citizens of that state to determine what its policies regarding marriage should be," said FACT President David Fowler.
Sanders said the state's attorney general will most likely appeal and defend any decisions on this issue ordered by the federal courts.