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Three same-sex Tennessee couples' marriages — granted recognition last month by a Nashville federal judge — are once again legally void after the state's attorney general won a stay from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio.

One of the plaintiff couples, Johno Espejo and Matthew Mansell, live in Franklin, with the other two in Knoxville and Memphis. The Knoxville couple, Sophy Jesty and Val Tanco, celebrated last month when a federal judge ordered the state had to recognize their marriage.

Their attorneys, Abby Rubenfeld of Nashville and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, are arguing Tennessee's statutory and constitutional ban harms the couples, all of whom were married in other states and then moved here.

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But the stay, issued late Friday, said it takes into account the AG's possibility of winning at the appellate level, the possibility of irreparable harm for the state of Tennessee and the fact that the laws around same-sex marriage are "unsettled."

Rubenfeld said the stay is actually encouraging because it shows the court is expediting the process. "Every single court that's considered the merits since Windsor (the Supreme Court's Defense of Marriage Act decision) has ruled the same way," she said.

In an interview with The Tennessean last month, Espejo and Mansell said they were thrilled with U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger's March 14 ruling in their favor last month — which included scathing denunciations of Tennessee's ban. But they also realized their fight wouldn't be easy.

"I'm proud of the fact that we wanted to step up," Mansell said. "It's important to us, and we want to help others. We're not any different from any other marriage."

In a March statement, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Robert Cooper said his office would take all necessary steps to defend the law.

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