Federal judge refuses stay in case that recognizes three Tennessee same-sex marriages


After delivering a preliminary narrow victory to three Tennessee same-sex couples last week, Federal judge Aleta Trauger denied that state's motion to stay her decision late yesterday.

In the decision, Trauger concluded:

"The appropriate focus of the court’s inquiry is on whether the defendants will suffer irreparable harm from enforcement of the Preliminary Injunction. The court’s injunction merely precludes Tennessee (at least temporarily) from enforcing its Anti-Recognition Laws against just three couples in Tennessee. Of course, if this court’s conclusion that the plaintiffs will likely succeed in their challenge to the Anti-Recognition Laws turns out to be wrong, the State may have suffered some small affront to its sovereignty by being forced to recognize three particular same-sex marriages for a short period of time. That harm, even if arguably “irreparable,” would not be substantial, and that harm is unlikely to occur in the first place, because the plaintiffs are likely to succeed. By contrast, as explained in the court’s previous opinion, the harms to the plaintiffs from continued enforcement of the Anti-Recognition Laws would be substantial and irreparable. The court finds no reason to revisit that determination."

In response to the state arguments pointing to stays in other cases inolving marriage equality, judge Trauger concluded:

"The defendants point out that, in other cases involving same-sex marriage, courts have stayed the issuance of preliminary or permanent injunctions having statewide effect.4 However, the defendants are comparing apples and oranges. Those cases all involved bans having statewide effect, which inherently created the possibility that implementation of the injunctions would motivate numerous third parties to seek and receive marriage licenses and/or to seek recognition of their out-of-state marriages."

Finally, in response to the state's argument that plaintiffs Dr. Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty, who have raised immediate concerns about the impending birth of their first child, "can be (or could have been) addressed through legal methods such as powers of attorney and advanced directives," judge Trauger responded:

"Furthermore, although it is conceivable that Dr. Tanco and Dr. Jesty possess or could secure certain rights relative to the child they are expecting tomorrow, they are entitled to the full panoply of rights associated with marriage and the security and peace of mind that those rights will not be abrogated or denied (at least for the time being) relative to their family or their expected child. Moreover, they should not be required to jump through hoops to obtain some limited measure of security."


Developing story. Stay tuned for more details.