The steady drip-drip-drip of court rulings keeps eroding the ban on marriage equality. In the latest case, a federal judge has ruled that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages that were performed elsewhere, striking down a portion of the state’s ban on marriage equality and suggesting that the entire ban may not withstand another challenge.
Kentucky voters passed a marriage ban in 2004 that included a provision that the state would not recognize marriage performed elsewhere. In his decision, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II said that “it is clear that Kentucky’s laws treat gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them.” He was ruling in a case brought by four gay and lesbian couples who live in Kentucky but were married in other states or Canada.
Heyburn, who was appointed to the bench by George H.W. Bush in 1992, was careful to preemptively address a number of issues, including a single judge overruling a measure that voters passed by a large margin. He also noted that many Kentuckians still believe that same-sex marriage violates their religious beliefs. However, Heyburn wrote, “One’s belief to the contrary, however sincerely held, cannot alone justify denying a selected group their constitutional rights.”
The ruling also suggested that the ban on marriage equality in Kentucky itself would not sustain a legal challenge.
“[T]here is no doubt that [the Supreme Court ruling on] Windsor and this Court’s analysis suggest a possible result to that question,” Heyburn wrote. He noted that “all federal courts that have considered same-sex marriage rights post-