Federal judge overturns Kentucky’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages

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Illustration by Vanessa Gregorchik.
Illustration by Vanessa Gregorchik.

UPDATE: As of March 19, 2014, Judge Heyburn has issued a stay in the case “Bourke v. Beshear” pending a settlement in the appeals court. Read more here.

Kentucky’s ban on out-of-state gay marriages has been overturned by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II in a court decision following a lawsuit filed by attorney Joe Dunman and a team of several lawyers against the state.

In the past, Kentucky has refused to recognize any same-sex couples who had legally married in another state. Once the couples had become official residents of Kentucky, their marriage went unrecognized. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit had all moved to Kentucky and had not had their marriages recognized due to the ban.

The plaintiffs argued that same-sex couples should be allowed to enjoy the same benefits as heterosexual couples, such as hospital visitation, inheritance rights, and access to family health coverage. An analysis by the New York Times estimated that unmarried same-sex couples will incur an additional $41,196 to $467, 562 in expenses over their lifetime compared to a married heterosexual couple.

The three main arguments of the plaintiffs were the following:

  • The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution promise that all Americans are entitled to due process and equal protection. If the government passes a law that restricts these fundamental rights, it must have an extremely important reason for doing so.
  • The laws they are challenging were religiously-motivated. The senators who proposed the law included Biblical references in their arguments, and church and state are supposed to be separate. No particular religious group should be allowed to let their religious views interfere with making fair and just laws.
  • The Constitution contains the Full Faith and Credit Clause, which requires states to recognize marriages from other states as valid. If the couple in question is composed of two people of the same sex, the law does not change.

“I’m very proud that our state is revolutionizing our views in shutting down the possibility of preventing people from loving who they choose,” Carly Rodman (11, J&C) said.

“I think this is a great step in right direction for our state. I am greatly overjoyed,” Olivia Renfro (11, YPAS) said.

“The tide has already turned. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have already allowed gay marriage and discovered that the world did not end because of it,” Dunman said.

According to the Associated Press, four couples in Louisiana are now challenging their state’s ban on their recognition.

“I’m excited, and I hope that they will decide to approve it – but I’m not quite sure what the outcome will be. Honestly I don’t think they will because of Kentucky’s political standpoint,” Rebecca Haberman (9, HSU) said.

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