Court Stays Recognition of 3 Same-Sex Marriages in Tennessee

An appeals court has stayed recognition of three same-sex marriages in Tennessee about a month after a federal judge had asked the state to recognize their out-of-state weddings pending a final decision on the constitutionality of the state's ban.

The 6th District Court of Appeals in Ohio issued the stay late Friday, rendering the marriages of three Tennessee same-sex couples legally void once again, The Tennessean reported.

The order takes into account the attorney general's possibility of winning at the appellate level, the possibility of irreparable harm for Tennessee and the fact that the laws around same-sex marriage are "unsettled."

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Robert Cooper had earlier said his office would make all efforts to defend the law.

Abby Rubenfeld, an attorney of the couples, was quoted as saying that the order is encouraging because the court appears to be expediting the process. "Every single court that's considered the merits since Windsor (the Supreme Court's Defense of Marriage Act decision) has ruled the same way," she said.

The couples – Dr. Valeria Tanco and Dr. Sophy Jesty of Knoxville; Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe and Thom Kostura of Memphis; and Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo of Franklin – moved to Tennessee after getting married in states where their unions were recognized.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger issued a preliminary injunction against Tennessee's same-sex marriage ban, which had led to the recognition of the three same-sex marriages.

Republican state Sen. Mike Bell had expressed disappointment over the ruling. "I am saddened that a federal judge has chosen to, at least in a narrow way, overturn the will of over 81% of the people of the state of Tennessee who devoted to define marriage as between a man and a woman." he said. "I am hoping the higher courts will overturn this activist judge's ruling."

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, wasn't happy with the stay on the ban. "The governor is disappointed that the court has stepped in when Tennesseans have voted clearly on this issue. It's inappropriate to comment further due to the continuing litigation," David Smith, spokesman for the governor, said earlier.

President of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, David Fowler, had said the judge "clearly signaled her intent to continue the war by unelected federal judges against the rights of states and the citizens of that to determine what its policies regarding marriage should be."

Federal judges in some states have struck down state amendments and laws banning gay marriage as unconstitutional after the U.S. Supreme Court last June squashed a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. They have revoked bans in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia, and ordered Kentucky to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. However, stays have been issued pending appeals.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

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