University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Tanco v. Haslam PB-TN-0005
Docket / Court 3:13-cv-01159 ( M.D. Tenn. )
State/Territory Tennessee
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Same-Sex Marriage
Attorney Organization National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)
Case Summary
This lawsuit by four (later three) same-sex couples legally married under the laws of other states was filed on October 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. It challenged Tennessee laws barring recognition of their marriages, alleging that those laws violate the ... read more >
This lawsuit by four (later three) same-sex couples legally married under the laws of other states was filed on October 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. It challenged Tennessee laws barring recognition of their marriages, alleging that those laws violate the federal Equal Protection and Due Process clauses, and the right to travel. Lawyers included private counsel and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-113 provides that, among other things, "[i]f another state or foreign jurisdiction issues a license for persons to marry, which marriages are prohibited in this state, any such marriage shall be void and unenforceable in this state." The statute further provides that "it is [] the public policy of this state that the historical institution and legal contract solemnizing the relationship of (1) man and one (1) woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state in order to provide the unique and exclusive rights and privileges to marriage." The Tennessee Constitution, as amended in 2006 to incorporate the "Tennessee Marriage Protection Amendment" following a referendum, contains essentially the same provisions. Plaintiffs in this case did not directly challenge Tennessee's ban on new same-sex
marriages, only Tennessee's refusal to recognize marriages legally celebrated by same-sex couples in other states.

On November 19, 2013, plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction requiring the state to recognize their marriages, pending a final decision on the merits. It sought individual relief for the six plaintiffs only. The district court granted the requested preliminary relief on March 14, 2014. Citing a "rising tide of persuasive post-Windsor federal caselaw," District Judge Aleta A. Trauger held that "it is no leap to conclude that the plaintiffs here are likely to succeed in their challenge to Tennessee's Anti-Recognition Laws." And the plaintiffs were being irreparably harmed by the Tennessee law: "Moreover, the evidence shows that the plaintiffs are suffering dignitary and practical harms that cannot be resolved through monetary relief. The state's refusal to recognize the plaintiffs' marriages de legitimizes their relationships, degrades them in their interactions with the state, causes them to suffer public indignity, and invites public and private discrimination and stigmatization." The court accordingly granted preliminary relief pending fuller adjudication. It commented, "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."

On November 6, 2014, the Sixth Circuit ruled on this and other cases from four states. DeBoer v. Snyder (PB-MI-0004 in this Clearinghouse). Obergefell v. Hodges (PB-OH-0003 in this Clearinghouse). Henry v. Hodges (PB-OH-0004 in this Clearinghouse). Love v. Beshear (PB-KY-0001 in this Clearinghouse). It was unwilling to find a Constitutional basis to deny states' authority to define marriage. On the Due Process and Equal Protection claims raised in this case, the court found that it was bound by Supreme Court precedent in Baker v. Nelson, 191 N.W.2d 185 (Minn. 1971), which it found not overruled by Windsor nor by "doctrinal developments". It found that the bans were plausibly rational, and neither in violation of the Constitution nor due to illegal animus or discrimination. It also held that "[i]f it is constitutional for a State to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, it is also constitutional for the State to stand by that definition with respect to couples married in other States or countries." (DeBoer v. Snyder Page p. 38). Accordingly, the Sixth Circuit upheld the same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. 772 F.3d 388, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 21191, 2014 FED App. 0275P (6th Cir.), 2014 WL 5748990.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari review of all the Sixth Circuit cases on January 16, 2015. The Court rephrased the questions presented as: 1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license marriage between two people of the same sex? 2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state? On June 26, 2015, the Court reversed in an opinion by Justice Kennedy. 135 S. Ct. 2071. The right to marry is fundamental, the Court held, and it demeans gay and lesbian couples to deprive them of access to marriage. The Fourteenth Amendment therefore does not allow states to ban same-sex marriage. Kennedy was joined without further writing by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor. Each of the four dissenters--Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito--wrote a dissent.

On August 24, 2015, District Judge Aleta A. Trauger issued an order stating that: (1) a State may not refuse to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples when such a marriage was lawfully entered into out of state; (2) Article XI, section 18, of the Tennessee Constitution and Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-3-113 were invalid; (3) Defendants and their employees are permanently enjoined from enforcing the foregoing provision; and (4) costs are taxed to the Defendants.

On March 25, 2016, the district court held that the plaintiffs’ motion for attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses would be granted in part and denied in part. The plaintiffs’ request of $2,333,095.63 was reduced by 15%, and the plaintiff was awarded $1,983.131.29 in attorney’s fees and $52,916.04 in costs and expenses. 2016 WL 1171058.

The case is now closed.

Thomas Topping - 02/15/2015
Dawn Lui - 12/04/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Right to travel
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Sexual orientatation
Disparate Treatment
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Tennessee
Plaintiff Description Three same-sex couples in Tennessee, whose marriages were lawfully entered in other states.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Confession of Judgment
Filed 10/21/2013
Case Closing Year 2016
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PB-MI-0004 : DeBoer v. Snyder (E.D. Mich.)
PB-OH-0003 : Obergefell v. Hodges (S.D. Ohio)
PB-OH-0004 : Henry v. Wymyslo (S.D. Ohio)
PB-KY-0001 : Love v. Beshear (W.D. Ky.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Oral Argument in Same Sex Marriage Cases
Date: Apr. 28, 2015
By: Oyez
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
M.D. Tenn. 3:13-cv-01159
PB-TN-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/17/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
M.D. Tenn.
PB-TN-0005-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 10/23/2013
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
M.D. Tenn.
Memorandum [granting preliminary injunction] [ECF# 67] (7 F.Supp.3d 759)
PB-TN-0005-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/14/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Tenn.
Memorandum and Order [Denying Motion to Stay] (2014 WL 1117069)
PB-TN-0005-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/20/2014
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Court of Appeals
Opinion [Reversing Judgment of the District Court] [Ct. of App. ECF# 184] (772 F.3d 388)
PB-TN-0005-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 11/06/2014
U.S. Supreme Court
Opinion [Consolidating Cases and Issuing Certiorari] (135 S.Ct. 1040)
PB-TN-0005-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 01/16/2015
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Supreme Court
Opinion [Denying Motion to Intervene] (135 S.Ct. 1169)
PB-TN-0005-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 01/20/2015
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Supreme Court
Supreme Court Opinion (135 S.Ct. 2584)
PB-TN-0005-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/26/2015
Source: Supreme Court website
M.D. Tenn.
Final Order and Permanent Injunction [ECF# 92]
PB-TN-0005-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/24/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Tenn.
Order [ECF# 133]
PB-TN-0005-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/25/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Alito, Samuel A. Jr. (Third Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
Cook, Deborah L. (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
Daughtrey, Martha Craig (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
Kennedy, Anthony McLeod (Ninth Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
Roberts, John Glover Jr. (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
Scalia, Antonin (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
Sutton, Jeffrey S. (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
Thomas, Clarence (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
Trauger, Aleta Arthur (M.D. Tenn.) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0005-0002 | PB-TN-0005-0005 | PB-TN-0005-0008 | PB-TN-0005-0009 | PB-TN-0005-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cramer, Phillip C. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0005-0001 | PB-TN-0005-9000
Farringer, John L. IV (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0005-0001 | PB-TN-0005-9000
Harbison, William L. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0005-0001 | PB-TN-0005-9000
Hickman, Scott (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0005-0001 | PB-TN-0005-9000
Holland, Maureen T. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0005-0001 | PB-TN-0005-9000
Lambert, Regina M. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0005-0001 | PB-TN-0005-9000
Minter, Shannon (California) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0005-0001 | PB-TN-0005-9000
Orr, Asaf (California) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0005-0001 | PB-TN-0005-9000
Rubenfeld, Abby R. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0005-0001 | PB-TN-0005-9000
Stoll, Christopher (California) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0005-0001 | PB-TN-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Campbell, Martha A. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
Rieger, Alexander Stuart (Tennessee) show/hide docs
Steiling, Kevin Gene (Tennessee) show/hide docs
Young, William Edwin (Tennessee) show/hide docs
Other Lawyers Scruggs, Jonathan A (Arizona) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0005-9000 | PB-TN-0005-9000

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