Two Tennessee residents are being forced to stay married by a judge with an apparent bone to pick over the US Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The couple filed for divorce in 2014, and last week Judge Jeffrey Atherton refused to grant the split for a number of cited reasons, including the following: "Tennesseans have been deemed by the US Supreme Court to be incompetent to define and address such keystone/central institutions such as marriage, and, thereby, at minimum, contested divorces." Since the Supreme Court redefined marriage in its decision, Atherton wants it to now also define "when a marriage is no longer a marriage," the Times Free Press reports.
Tennessee lawyers have called Atherton's ruling unusual, irrelevant, and of questionable legality. "I don't know for sure, but I suspect the US Supreme Court did not intend to preempt divorce law," one attorney tells the Times Free Press. "He is just making a statement," says Regina Lambert, one of the lawyers in the Supreme Court case. "I just think change is hard for people." The couple is free to refile for divorce, but they'll need new reasons, as Atherton found they failed to prove irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct. Or, as Atherton points out to the Times Free Press, they can always reconcile. "I just feel bad for the couple," Lambert tells the Guardian.