A federal judge in Nashville ruled on Friday (14 March) that Tennessee must recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples while their lawsuit against the state's gay marriage ban is pending.
The three couples were legally married in other states before moving to Tennessee.
They filed suit last October claiming the ban violates the federal Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process and the constitutionally protected right to travel between and move to other states.
US District Judge Aleta A. Trauger indicated in her ruling that in light of last June's US Supreme Court ruling gutting key provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, the lawsuit is 'likely' to succeed.
Trauger noted 'a rising tide' of persuasive case law since then and that 'it is no leap to conclude that the plaintiffs here are likely to succeed in their challenge to Tennessee’s Anti-Recognition Laws.'
The judge found that Tennessee’s refusal to recognize the couples’ marriages fails to protect them and is likely in violation of the US Constitution.
This is the latest in a series of federal court rulings in such states as Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky, and Texas, that have gone in favor of same sex marriage since the landmark Supreme Court ruling.
Abby R. Rubenfeld, one of the attorneys involved in the case, said in a statement: 'This is a very significant ruling for Tennessee. The Court has correctly required Tennessee to live up to its basic values of fairness and family. '
The couples are: Dr. Valeria Tanco and Dr. Sophy Jesty of Knoxville; Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe and Thom Kostura of Memphis (pictured) ; and Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo of Franklin.
'Because of this ruling, we can rest assured that our relationship will be respected in all aspects of our lives not only by our friends and neighbors and the federal government, but also by our home state of Tennessee,' DeKoe said in a statement.