Tennessee has to recognize the same-sex marriages of three couples despite a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and woman, a federal judge ruled in a lawsuit Friday.
While emphasizing that her preliminary injunction against the state was limited only to the three couples named in the suit, federal Judge Aleta A. Trauger noted that before long, the ban would probably be upended for all same-sex couples in Tennessee.
At some point in the future, probably with the aid of further rulings, "in the eyes of the United States Constitution, the plaintiffs' marriages will be placed on equal footing with those of heterosexual couples and ... proscriptions against same-sex marriage will soon become a footnote in the annals of American history," Trauger wrote.
Three gay couples are listed in the lawsuit – two female University of Tennessee professors who were married in New York; a fine arts graduate student from Memphis and his husband, a first sergeant in the U.S. Army; and a male couple from San Francisco who moved to Tennessee for work in 2012.
The ruling is preliminary and will remain in place for the three couples until the judge makes a final ruling on the suit.
Tennessee is one of several new fronts in the legal fight over same-sex marriage. Last week, same-sex couples in Indiana filed a lawsuit challenging that state’s law prohibiting such marriages.