At 1 p.m. Wednesday in Cincinnati, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear cases related to same-sex marriage: Tanco v. Haslam out of Tennessee, plus cases from Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. Here's what you need to know about Tennessee's case.
Why was it filed?
In Tanco v. Haslam, three plaintiff couples who married elsewhere but now live in Tennessee will argue that the state's failure to recognize their marriages creates an unconstitutional burden. Tennessee banned same-sex marriage in 1996 by state statute, and then voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional ban in 2006. In March, a federal judge in Nashville ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, but that ruling was stayed a month later by the appeals court.
Who is representing the plaintiffs, and what are they contending?
The National Center for Lesbian Rights and a number of attorneys are involved. Bill Harbison of Nashville is representing the plaintiffs. He has said his oral arguments will focus on the Supreme Court's U.S. v. Windsor ruling in June 2013 striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Who is representing the state of Tennessee, and what is it contending?
Acting Solicitor General Joe Whalen will be arguing the case on behalf of Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper. A spokeswoman for his office said she couldn't comment beyond the court filings. Those argue that Tennessee's ban is not discriminatory and the plaintiffs aren't harmed by it.
When might the court rule?
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center on Lesbian Rights, said he expects it to be a matter of weeks. The court expedited the appeal, which could have taken longer to be heard.
There are several potential outcomes, but here are two extremes:
• The court rules broadly, and same-sex marriage becomes legal in the states involved. A stay would likely be issued on the ruling pending the states' appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
• The court rules in favor of the states, and the status quo stays in place pending an appeal.
Would Tennessee's case be argued at the U.S. Supreme Court?
It could be. Already, appellate courts have ruled in favor of marriage recognition inUtah and Oklahoma at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and in Virginia at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Any of those states might appeal.