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Kentucky same-sex couples seek to extend judge’s pro-marriage equality ruling

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Kentucky state sealWhen U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II issued a ruling last week striking down Kentucky’s refusal to recognize out-of-state marriage licenses for same-sex couples, it was clear that it would only be a matter of time before another challenge would be filed in order to allow couples to obtain licenses from Kentucky itself.  That happened last week, just two days after Heyburn’s ruling, and it means that full marriage equality could be a reality quite soon in the Bluegrass State.  The Courier-Journal reports:

The couples, both denied marriage licenses from the Jefferson County clerk here [in Louisville], have asked U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn to extend his ruling on the same grounds that he cited in the previous case — that discriminating against same-sex marriages violates the federal constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

Heyburn indicated in his ruling Wednesday that he would be inclined to do so.

Ruling in a suit brought by four gay and lesbian couples and their children, Heyburn said that while “religious beliefs … are vital to the fabric of society … assigning a religious or traditional rationale for a law does not make it constitutional when that law discriminates against a class of people without other reasons.”

In an intervening complaint filed in that suit Friday, two couples — Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza and Maurice Blanchard and Dominque James — say “the commonwealth’s law deprives them of numerous legal protections that are available to opposite-sex couples” because they are not allowed to marry in the state.

As the Courier-Journal points out, Heyburn indicated in his opinion that the legal reasoning he employed could be used to make a case for full marriage equality in Kentucky.  The court was not presented with the particular question whether Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional,” the judge’s ruling held. “However, there is no doubt that Windsor (last year’s U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling affording federal marriage benefits to same-sex spouses) and this court’s analysis suggest a possible result to that question.”

The same-sex couples’ request would lead to Heyburn answering that question, rather than requiring a different, randomly assigned judge to hear a separate lawsuit on the new constitutional claims.

After Judge Heyburn handed down its ruling, the Kentucky attorney general’s office said through a spokeswoman that it was reviewing the decision and would not decide whether it would appeal until Heyburn had issued a final order.  In his ruling from last week, the judge mentioned that he will hold a hearing on the proper constitutional remedies for the same-sex couples, although that hearing has not yet been scheduled.

For more information on Bourke v. Beshear from The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, click here. 


  • 1. Pat  |  February 19, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Oh, can it really be so quick and painless? I was expecting we would need to file a whole separate lawsuit, and go through the long briefing phase, trial phase, etc.
    Can it be that now the judge can just reply "OK, request granted: KY must have marriage equality!" The defendants don't even have a chance to lay out their arguments? (not that I would want that, but I'm surprised it could be this quick, since this was indeed not the question originally asked)

    And what about appeals? Probably the first part of the ruling (recognition of out-of-state marriages) will get appealed to the corresponding circuit: if granted, would the 2nd part of the ruling (marriage in KY) be part of the SAME appeal, or are they likely to be considered separately?

  • 2. GregG  |  February 19, 2014 at 9:54 am

    If the KY case were limited to just recognition of out-of-state marriages that would be a different situation than Utah. Hence, could it avoid having a stay issued? It seems possible to me that SCOTUS could come down on the other side of the line in a case where a state is not required to issue licenses but merely recognize licenses from other states. Not saying it is likely but it seems possible.

  • 3. PDX_Str8_Supported  |  February 19, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Actually, the KY case (as is) is merely a restatement of DOMA (sec 2). Different (slightly) than nationwide marriage equality.

    14 yo 1st cousins can get married in AL, but when they move to TX they are still married, even though they couldn't get a marriage license issued there.

  • 4. Mike in Baltimore  |  February 19, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Alabama – 14 year olds can NOT get married. (See last full sentence of the quoted material below.)

    "Under 18

    If either of you are under 18, you will need a certified copy of your birth certificate. Both parents must be present with identification, or if you have a legal guardian they must be present with a court order and identification.

    The state also requires a $200 bond to be executed, payable to the State of Alabama. If one or both parents are deceased, proper evidence of such must be provided. According to the Alabama Code Section 30-1-4, individuals under the age of 16 may not marry. "

  • 5. Zack12  |  February 19, 2014 at 10:17 am

    The judge more or less threw them a bone and told them he'd be likely to rule in favor if he got that kind of lawsuit before him.
    Glad to see some couples took him up on that.

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