A federal appeals court has indefinitely halted an order requiring Tennessee to recognize the out-of-state same-sex marriages of three plaintiff couples who had sued the state.
In a three-page decision on Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals says a stay pending appeal requested by Tennessee is “warranted.” Further, the order says the lawsuit, Tanco v. Haslam, should be decided on its merits on an expedited basis.
“Because the law in this area is so unsettled, in our judgment the public interest and the interests of the parties would be best served by this Court imposing a stay on the district court’s order until this case is reviewed on appeal,” the order says.
On March 14, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage recognition under the presumption the Tennessee law is unconstitutional. However, her ruling was limited to the three same-sex couples who participated in the lawsuit.
Following the decision, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper Jr. appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit and requested a stay from the lower court. When the lower court denied the request, he took it up with the appeals court, which granted him the stay.
In issuing the stay, the Sixth Circuit invokes a similar stay decision by U.S. District Judge Timothy Black. In the case of Henry v. Himes, Black ruled Ohio must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, but later issued a stay on his decision.
“In the present case, as in Henry, we find that the public interest requires granting a stay and transferring this case to a merits panel for expedited consideration — so that the merits panel can assess whether a stay should remain in effect, and address the substantive issues in this case,” the order says.
The stay request was before U.S. Circuit Judge Ralph Guy, a Reagan appointee; U.S. Circuit Judge Eric Clay, a Clinton appointee; and U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman, a Carter appointee sitting on the appeals court by designation.