Federal judge rules against portion of Kentucky gay marriage ban

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A federal judge today (Feb. 12) ruled that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. In issuing the order, he ruled unconstitutional a portion of the state's anti-gay marriage ban.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II has that Kentucky's laws treat gay and lesbians differently — in a "way that demeans them."

The judge wrote, "IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that to the extent K.R.S 402.005, .020, .040, and .045 and Section 233A of the Kentucky Constitution deny validly married same-sex couples equal recognition and benefits under Kentucky and federal law, they violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution."

Voters approved a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage in 2004. The amendment defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, prohibits the state from legalizing same-sex marriage and bars recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.

Four same-sex couples who married outside Kentucky sued to overturn the constitutional amendment. The couples are Gregory Bourke and Michael Deleon of Louisville, Jimmy Meade and Luther Barlowe of Bardstown, Randell Johnson and Paul Campion of Louisville, and Kimberly Franklin and Tamera Boyd of Cooper.

They are represented by the Fauver Law Office and Clay Daniel Walton & Adams.

The judge's ruling was not final — another hearing is set on the case — and he did not order the state to allow same-sex couples to marry in Kentucky.

Michael Aldridge, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky said, "The ACLU of Kentucky applauds today’s ruling. Just as the U.S. Supreme Court found … in their decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, denying legally married same-sex couples equal recognition and protection under the law is not only unfair, but it is unconstitutional."

He continued, "The ACLU of Kentucky asks the state to let the ruling stand rather than appealing the decision, as has been done in several other states, most recently in Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Mexico and Virginia. If the decision is appealed, the ACLU of Kentucky will file an amicus brief in support of marriage equality."

At the Human Rights Campaign, president Chad Griffin said, “Today, this nation took another bold step toward its fundamental constitutional principles of equal justice under the law. This amendment is unconstitutional, and we believe the only true solution to the injustice faced by these plaintiffs is full marriage equality. We hope all parties act swiftly and fairly to allow all loving and committed Kentucky couples the opportunity to marry in the state they call home.”

At Freedom to Marry, founder and president Evan Wolfson, a longtime leader in the equality effort, noted that Heyburn was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. He said, "Today a Republican-appointed federal judge in Kentucky held — as did judges in Utah and Oklahoma weeks ago and as did the U.S. Supreme Court last year — that there is simply no legitimate justification for denying equal protection to same-sex couples, echoing the majority of Americans who support the freedom to marry, including a growing number of conservatives.

"It is wrong for the government to deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry the person they love; a freedom that is part of every American's liberty and pursuit of happiness. With one of the many cases across the country potentially making it to the Supreme Court as soon as 2015, we must continue to make the case across the country that America — all of America — is ready for the freedom to marry."

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