Judge Aleta Trauger granted the couples a preliminary injunction
that requires Tennessee to recognize their marriages pending a final
decision on the constitutionality of Tennessee's ban on same-sex
"At this point, all signs indicate that, in the eyes of the United
States Constitution, the plaintiffs' marriages will be placed on an
equal footing with those of heterosexual couples and that
proscriptions against same-sex marriage will soon become a footnote
in the annals of American history," Trauger wrote in the decision.
The ruling comes as gay rights advocates gain momentum in their
fight to legalize same-sex marriage. Federal judges have recently
struck down gay marriage bans in several states, including Utah,
Virginia and Texas. Such rulings have been put on hold pending
"This is the first nail in the coffin of marriage discrimination in
Tennessee, and we won't stop until we have full marriage equality
here. It will happen," said Abby Rubenfeld, the lead attorney in the
The trend follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that legally
married same-sex couples nationwide are eligible for federal
benefits. The decision struck down a key part of the 1996 federal
Defense of Marriage Act.
The office of Republican Governor Bill Haslam said state officials
were reviewing the opinion.
"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," said David Smith,
spokesman for the governor.
[to top of second column]
Family Action Council of Tennessee President David Fowler said he
expects Cooper will pursue an appeal if Trauger ultimately strikes
down the state's marriage law.
Trauger "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," Fowler said in a statement.
The couples in Friday's ruling, who were married in New York and
California before moving to Tennessee, did not challenge the
constitutionality of Tennessee's ban on same-sex marriage.
In February, a federal judge ordered Kentucky to recognize the legal
same-sex marriages of residents who wed outside the state.
Kentucky's governor plans to hire outside counsel to handle an
appeal of that decision.
Same-sex couples can legally wed in 17 states plus the District of
(Additional reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis and Brendan
O'Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Cynthia Johnston, Lisa Shumaker,
Richard Chang and Ken Wills)
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