Three same-sex Tennessee couples’ marriages — granted recognition last month by a Nashville federal judge — are once again legally void after the state’s attorney general won a stay from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio, reports The Tennessean.
One of the plaintiff couples, Johno Espejo and Matthew Mansell, live in Franklin, with the other two in Knoxville and Memphis. Their attorneys, Abby Rubenfeld of Nashville and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, are arguing Tennessee’s statutory and constitutional ban harms the couples, all of whom were married in other states and then moved here.
But the stay, issued late Friday, said it takes into account the AG’s possibility of winning at the appellate level, the possibility of irreparable harm for the state of Tennessee and the fact that the laws around same-sex marriage are “unsettled.”
Rubenfeld said the stay is actually encouraging because it shows the court is expediting the process. “Every single court that’s considered the merits since Windsor (the Supreme Court’s Defense of Marriage Act decision) has ruled the same way,” she said.
Note: See also the News Sentinel’s Sunday report on the Knoxville same-sex couple which mentions the 6th Circuit ruling. An excerpt:
In March, just before Tanco delivered the couple’s first child, Emilia, a federal judge in Nashville granted an injunction that forced the state to recognize their marriage while the case proceeds through the court system.
That decision allowed the couple to put both mothers’ names on Emilia’s birth certificate and allowed them to give their daughter Jesty’s surname.
But Friday, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals stayed the lower court’s decision, meaning the couple’s union does not currently have state protections.
The case is still moving forward, but it’s unclear what that will mean for their family in the meantime. Calls to the couple’s lawyer, Regina Lambert, were not returned Friday.
The state’s attorney general’s office would only say that it was reviewing the order and its implications.
Chris Stoll, senior staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a San Francisco-based organization backing the Tennessee suit, said he’s not discouraged by the ruling.
“I don’t view it as a setback,” he said. “I’m encouraged that the motions panel saw the importance of the issue and sought to expedite it.”
The per curiam order directed the merits committee, a separate panel of judges that will hear the entire suit, to immediately put together a panel and to also reconsider the stay. The case is one of dozens across the country that have been filed in the wake of last summer’s Supreme Court decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.