Gay Marriage

Tennessee's Gay Marriage Recognition Ruling Narrow But Important

State ordered to acknowledge three same-sex weddings from other states.

|

The market for gay wedding stock photos is really taking off.
Credit: © Amy Walters | Dreamstime.com

Another federal judge has gotten involved in a state's same-sex marriage recognition ban. This time, in Tennessee, U.S. District Court Judge Aleta A. Trauger very narrowly ruled Friday that the state cannot apply its ban to three gay couples who were legally married in other states.

Similar to a recent decision in Kentucky, the ruling (PDF) does not require Tennessee to hand out licenses to gay couples and start marrying them off. Rather, the judge is requiring the state to recognize three gay marriages legally performed elsewhere.

Or, rather, the judge has granted a preliminary injunction forbidding Tennessee from applying its ban on recognition to the three couples named in a lawsuit against the state. Court rulings, huh? The judge ruled that the lawsuit is likely to win its challenge to the state's law moving forward, and so she is implementing the injunction to prevent any harms that may occur to the couples in the lawsuit due to Tennessee's ban. A woman in one of the couples is pregnant. If something happens to her, would the state be able to acknowledge her partner as the child's other mother? That's one of the reasons Trauger gives for her injunction.

Trauger invoked last year's United States v. Windsor Supreme Court ruling, where the majority determined that the federal government cannot refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from states where it's legal. The judge wrote it's likely the same rule would apply to Tennessee as well. In her summary, Trauger concluded: "At some point in the future, likely with the benefit of additional precedent from circuit courts and, perhaps, the Supreme Court, the court will be asked to make a final ruling on the plaintiffs' claims. 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."

I'm not entirely sure another Supreme Court ruling may be necessary on gay marriage with the way things are moving, though I still expect one to come within five years. I'm not sure the Supreme Court actually has to rule that same-sex marriage must be legally recognized in all 50 states. All it has to do is rule that United States v. Windsor applies to the states as well. That means states have to recognize other states' legal marriages. At that point, it would be silly for any state to continue to refuse to hand out its own wedding licenses to gay couples. If it were legally required to recognize and offer the same benefits to gay couples who were wed in other states, it would be kind of pointless not to just allow it themselves. Of course, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for any state, out of pettiness, to cling to such a rule and require its residents to trek to other states to get legally wed.

NEXT: Ira Stoll on Obama's Corporate Bully Pulpit

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. OMG. Full Faith and Credit means that other states can make the Bible Belt turn gay???

  2. The judge wrote it’s likely the same rule would apply to Tennessee as well.

    More results-oriented judging. The Windsor case was a frikkin’ mess, jurisprudentially, as SCOTUS threw a couple or three different reasons out there and never really said which one they decided the case on. There was some hand-waving at Equal Protection, which is the only Constitutional grounds, I believe, for overturning a state ban on gay marriage.

    The better grounds for deciding Windsor would have been that the federal government has no authority to override a state determination that someone is married (or not married). Which was in the mix, but because apparently SCOTUS clerks are now drawn from the bottom of the law school class, nobody managed to draft a coherent opinion.

    Of course, this is all about the judiciary prepping the battlespace for their inevitable eventual gay marriage mandate via Equal Protection.

    1. I wouldn’t blame the poor clerks – Blackstone, Coke and Frankfurter combined wouldn’t be able to put enough lipstick on that pig.

    2. They could have simply decided it on ‘non-discrimination’ grounds.

      You’re going to license marriage? Fine. Wait – your restricting the license to a man and a woman? You need to justify what it is about marriage that uniquely requires a man and a woman in order to do so.

      I mean, if you can’t explicitly refuse to consider men to serve drinks on your airline you will have a hard time justifying the ‘a man and a woman’ standard as narrowly tailored to fit a compelling government interest.

      1. They could have simply decided it on ‘non-discrimination’ grounds.

        That’s the nationwide gay marriage mandate that they are working their way up to. They’ll get there, don’t worry. That whole “union of sovereign states” thing is pretty much dead and buried, anyway, so what’s another shovel full of dirt on the casket at this point?

        The anti-discrimination laws that apply to businesses (like your example on airlines) are justified on Commerce Clause grounds. That won’t work with state governments.

        1. That whole “union of sovereign states” thing is pretty much dead and buried, anyway

          Yeah and you know what hill it died on? Protecting the right to put human beings in chains and force them to labor for free.

          Fucked that up good, didn’t you morons?

          1. Take your hatred somewhere else.

      2. Wait – your restricting the license to a man and a woman? You need to justify what it is about marriage that uniquely requires a man and a woman in order to do so.

        Just so long as they don’t go a step further and question why certain classes of people should get to license their relationships in exchange for special treatment and privileges denied to the unlicensed. Because everybody knows there’s a compelling state interest in handing out prizes for fucking the right person for the rest of your life until you get divorced.

      3. Wait – your restricting the license to a man and a woman? You need to justify what it is about marriage that uniquely requires a man and a woman in order to do so.

        Something about when a heterosexual couple have unprotected sex, children sometimes result, which must then be cared for.

  3. I can hardly wait for a judge to say Full Faith and Credit requires recognition of out-of-state licenses. It would provide a dandy springboard for a case forcing interstate recognition of concealed carry licenses.

    1. And out-of-state contractor licenses – which would have helped the NE during the aftermath of the last hurricane.

    2. Lol!

      Every good jurist knows that’s completely different. Next case.

    3. Duh, guns are icky and stuff. Obviously it wouldn’t apply to them. Or other things I find offensive/don’t help my team/cronies/whathaveyou.

      /Tony

      1. Forgive my totally arbitrary personal preference of finding people’s violent bloody deaths offensive. I’ll try to be more objective about these things.

        1. If you truly found people’s violent bloody deaths to be offensive, you would be in favor of fewer restrictions on private gun ownership.

          1. A statement that can only be made from a place of complete and utter unawareness of facts.

  4. “Of course, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for any state, out of pettiness, to cling to such a rule and require its residents to trek to other states to get legally wed.”

    Given that the bans on marriage equality were motivated by pure animus, it’s fully expected that the 20 some states with anti-Gay marriage bans will chose to be this petty and vindictive.

    What’s really surprising is that these bans, which lack even the slightest rational basis, have not been overturned sooner.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.