Federal Judge Rules That KY Must Recognize Same-Sex Marriages From Other States

Gay-Marriage-Hands-No-Text-14146794_158577_ver1.0_320_240_1383695408391_1219149_ver1.0_320_240The 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-

Windsor have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage rights.”
Religious-right leaders predictably freaked out at the ruling. Martin Cochran, an analyst for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, which filed a brief in support of the ban, revealed his lack of understanding as to where the U.S. Constitution resides by claiming that “Kentucky marriage policy will now be dictated from places like Boston and San Francisco.”
Meantime, things are heating up in a number of other states that just a few months ago would have seemed unlikely prospects. In Texas, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia heard arguments today in a challenge to that state’s voter-passed ban on marriage equality. State Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican seeking to replace Rick Perry as governor, has pledged to defend the ban with Alamo-like fervor. Lawsuits are also being planned to challenge marriage bans in Missouri and Louisiana.