NASHVILLE — Tennessee's governor on Tuesday asked a federal judge to put her ruling requiring the state to recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples on hold while a higher court weighs in on the case.
Gov. Bill Haslam and state Attorney General Robert Cooper said in a motion that overturning the law without an appeals court reviewing the case "frustrates the will of the people." Haslam and Cooper said leaving the status quo in place pending an appeals court decision would not harm the three couples who sued for recognition.
"We intend to take all necessary steps to defend the law," said Sharon Curtis-Flair, a spokeswoman for Cooper's office.
U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger on Friday ordered the state to recognize the unions of the couples, who were married in other states.
Trauger issued a preliminary injunction, which can be granted only in cases the judge believes the plaintiff will likely win.
In Tennessee, marriage between partners of the same sex is prohibited by state law and by a constitutional amendment approved in 2006.
The lawsuit did not challenge laws barring same-sex marriage in Tennessee, only those that prohibit recognizing such marriages performed in other states.
Trauger found that the plaintiffs were suffering irreparable harm because of the state's refusal to recognize their marriages.
Multiple judges have overturned voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia.
At least 17 states, mostly in the Northeast, and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage. Others may soon follow depending on how federal appeals courts, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court, rule on state bans that have been overturned.
Six federal judges have issued pro-gay-marriage rulings since the Supreme Court's decision last June that struck down part of the federal anti-gay-marriage law.