U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II on July 1 struck down Kentucky’s prohibition on the performance of marriages between same-sex couples.
It was Heyburn's second ruling for marriage equality.
The latest decision came in Love v. Beshear. Two same-sex couples sued, arguing that Kentucky’s refusal to grant them marriage licenses violates the U.S. Constitution.
In his ruling, Heyburn wrote, “Assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the freedom of others to any degree. Thus, same-sex couples’ right to marry seems to be a uniquely ‘free’ constitutional right.”
He has issued a stay, anticipating the state will appeal to the Sixth Circuit.
Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said, “It seems that not a day goes by where we don’t see clear evidence of America’s untempered momentum toward equality. Today’s marriage ruling makes clear that Kentucky should not be denying committed and loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. We congratulate the plaintiffs and their attorneys and thank them for making today’s victory possible."
In February, Heyburn ruled that Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection clause and that Kentucky cannot refuse to recognize valid same-sex marriages conducted in other states.
The judge, appointed to the bench by President George H. W. Bush, sided with four plaintiff couples who had married elsewhere before seeking state recognition in Kentucky.
The Bourke case is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and argument has been set for Aug. 6.
There are more than 70 court cases challenging discriminatory marriage bans across the country in 30 states and Puerto Rico.
As of July 1, six federal appeals courts are presiding over 11 marriage equality cases.