Same-Sex Marriages in Tennessee Recognized by Federal Judge, And This Could Be a Big Deal

Back in October, three gay couples who'd been married out-of-state filed a lawsuit demanding that their state recognize their unions; finally, on Friday, a federal judge recognized the marriages of the three same-sex Tennessee couples, setting a wonderful and powerful precedent.

Although the ruling only applies to those three couples, and is still pending, Judge Aleta Trauger's decision means that Tennessee's ban on same-sex marriage — which became part of state law in 1998 and then part of the state constitution in 2008, when an amendment passed that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman — might not meet constitutional standards.

“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,” Judge Aleta Trauger wrote in the ruling.

Though gay marriage is of course the norm in 17 states, as well as the District of Columbia, cases that challenge state bans on same-sex marriages have been brought forward in various other states, including Kentucky. “Every federal court to have considered such a challenge since the Supreme Court's landmark decision in United States v. Windsor has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples,” said the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Said the president of Freedom to Marry in a statement: “The judge's powerful words and the fact that today's ruling comes out of Tennessee make clear that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry, and it is time for appellate judges and the Supreme Court to do right by all families and bedrock principles of liberty and equality under the law,”

It's also significant on a deeply personal level: one of the plaintiffs is due to give birth next week; now, thanks to Friday's ruling, her wife will have the legal rights given to heterosexual married parents.