A federal judge in Middle Tennessee ruled Friday that Tennessee must preliminarily recognize as valid the out-of-state marriages of three same-sex couples. The couples, after moving to Tennessee, challenged the state's constitutional amendment banning recognition of such marriages.
Tennessee banned same-sex marriages in 2006 by a constitutional amendment.
Judge Trauger said, in light of the "rising tide" of such cases, the three couples were likely to succeed in their lawsuit.
She wrote, "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.
"In other words, the court’s decision today simply reflects its best projection, based on the evidence and the existing state of the law, as to whether the plaintiffs are likely to win their case. Currently, all relevant federal authority indicates that the plaintiffs in this case are indeed likely to prevail on their claims that the Anti-Recognition Laws are unconstitutional."
The injunction applies only to the couples involved in the case.
It does not stop the state from continuing to ban same-sex marriages in Tennessee and to deny benefits to same-sex couples who are married in other states.
Judge Traugher said federal case law is moving towards overturning "anti-recognition" statutes.
David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, said, "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.
"In stating her intent to require Tennessee to recognize out-of-state marriages involving two individuals of the same sex, Judge Trauger only got one thing right-that her ruling will thwart 'democratically enacted laws' that were 'overwhelmingly' approved by 80 percent of Tennessee voters.
"If Judge Trauger continues on her present course and strikes down our marriage law, we trust that our state's attorney general will pursue an immediate appeal to rectify this assault on the will of the people, the rights of our state, and the institution of marriage."
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said, "Yet another federal judge has recognized that bans on marriage equality don't hold up to even basic constitutional scrutiny. Though today's ruling comes from Tennessee, it joins others issued recently in Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah, and in this case the judge boldly noted that it won't be long before each and every remaining ban on marriage equality becomes a footnote in history. That day isn't here yet, but today Tennessee brought us one step closer to that goal."
Currently 29 states have constitutional amendments restricting marriage to one man and one woman. Same-sex couples can legally marry in 17 states and Washington, D.C.