March 28, 2014 | by Chris Johnson
Tennessee asks 6th Circuit to stay recognition of same-sex marriages

Regnerus, gay juror, National LGBT Bar Association, Gay News, Washington Blade

Tennessee has asked the Sixth Circuit to grant a stay on recognition of plaintiff couples’ same-sex marriages (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

On the same day that the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals placed a stay on marriage equality in Michigan, Tennessee asked the court to halt a court order requiring the state to recognize the marriages of three plaintiff couples.

In a 41-page filing on Tuesday, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper Jr. and other state attorneys write that plaintiff couples “will not be irreparably harmed” by a stay pending appending in the lawsuit, known as Tanco v. Haslam.

“[W]ith regard to Plaintiff’s due-process and equal-protection claims, Tennessee has a rational basis to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples,” the filing states. “A traditional purpose for the institution of marriage was to ensure that procreation would occur only within the confines of a stable family unit.”

The order requiring Tennessee to recognize the same-sex marriages of three plaintiff couples in the lawsuit was made by U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger, a Clinton appointee. After her order, she denied a request from the state to halt recognition of the marriages pending appeal of the lawsuit.

But Trauger restricted her decision to the three same-sex couples involved in the lawsuit at the time of the ruling as opposed to requiring Tennessee to recognize all same-sex marriage performed elsewhere.

In the filing, Cooper expresses concern that allowing the litigation to proceed without a stay would encourage other same-sex couples in Tennessee to “secure such injunctive relief.”

“Indeed, the District Court’s determination of harm to Plaintiffs Kostura and DeKoe rests solely upon the alleged indignities they suffer and the uncertainty of their martial protections —subjective harms that can arguably be applied to any other same-sex couple with an out-of-state marriage,” Cooper writes. “Such harm is insufficient to warrant preliminary injunctive relief, as discussed below, and the district court’s ruling to the contrary opens the gates to injunctive relief for future plaintiffs.”

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told the Blade earlier this week Tennessee cannot meet the standard for a stay in this case.

“The Tennessee ruling applies only to three couples who were validly married before they moved to Tennessee to accept new jobs there,” Minter said. “Tennessee recognizes the marriages of millions of couples and could not conceivably suffer any harm from recognizing these three marriages. The three couples, however, will suffer irreparable harm if Tennessee does not recognize their marriages as their lawsuit progresses.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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