A judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that Tennessee must recognize the out-of-state marriages of three same-sex couples while they pursue a lawsuit attempting to overturn the state's ban. Article XI Section 18 of Tennessee's constitution [text, PDF], also known as the Anti-Recognition Law, prohibits the state from recognizing any out-of-state marriage other than a union between one man and one woman. The three same-sex couples sought an injunction against the Anti-Recognition Law pending the final outcome in the case. Judge Aleta Trauger granted the injunction, explaining that recent case law on same-sex marriage indicates that the couples will likely win on the merits:
First, the nature of a preliminary injunction remedy is just that--preliminary. It is not a final judgment on the merits of a case. Instead, it preliminarily enjoins a party (here, effectively, the State of Tennessee) from engaging in a particular action until the court can rule on the merits of the plaintiffs' claims at a later stage, typically with the benefit of more evidence and legal authority. In making its decision, the court must decide, among other things, whether the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their claims, not that they have prevailed or that they necessarily will prevail on their claims. ... Currently, all relevant federal authority indicates that the plaintiffs in this case are indeed likely to prevail on their claims that the Anti-Recognition Law [is] unconstitutional.It is unclear when Trauger will issue a final decision.
This is the latest episode in the ongoing controversy regarding same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder]. On Thursday the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging Florida's refusal to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. Last week four Indiana same-sex couples filed suit [JURIST report] against the state in the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana [official website] seeking to strike down the state's Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. In the same week four same-sex couples filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in Wyoming state court challenging the constitutionality of the state's restriction of marriage to one man and one woman. Also in March a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin [official website] refused to block [JURIST report] the state's ban on same-sex marriage pending outcome of a trial.