Lawyer and plaintiffs discuss national marriage equality


Joe Dunman by Sienna Summers

Alex Coburn

Joe Dunman by Sienna Summers
Joe Dunman met with the Manual RedEye staff on Feb. 19. Photo by Sienna Summers.

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 recently legalized out-of-state gay marriage, which led to several other states, such as Virginia and Texas, also challenging their state’s same-sex marriage ban. Joe Dunman, a lawyer from the case, and Greg Bourke and Michael Deleon, a couple involved in the case, met with the staff of Manual RedEye to discuss how they won.

“Our case was comprised of four couples married in Canada, Connecticut, Iowa, and California before Prop 8,” Dunman said.

Bourke and Deleon are one of these couples. Married in Ontario, Canada, they have been together for 32 years and have two children.

“We went to Ontario because they offered legal marriages there for same-sex couples. At the time, no U.S. states were offering it. At that point, we had already been married for twenty-two years,” Bourke said. “We hoped at some point that it would be recognized by the state, but we knew it wouldn’t be immediate and now here we are.”

“My team is extremely in favor of expanding constitutional rights to everyone,” Dunman said. “We’re very proud of the Constitution and how it can stop people from being unfairly targeted.”

Dunman also explained that sometimes states create laws that specifically call out a certain group in a discriminatory way. For example, Proposition 8 in California asserted that marriage should only be between a man and woman, and that same-sex unions violated the idea of “traditional marriage.” This law was quickly deemed unconstitutional after numerous rallies and protests were held calling the law unfair, biased, and based on religious definitions of marriage.

“If you’re picking on somebody just for being the way that they are, the law can’t stand,” Dunman said.

This is especially relevant because of recent events surrounding the proposed legal discrimination of not only gay couples, but also gay citizens, in both Kansas and Arizona. The law was struck down in Kansas, but not Arizona. Arizona businesses are now legally allowed to turn away gay citizens in the name of “religious freedom.”

“Turning away people who are giving you money doesn’t even make sense. Your religious rights end when people start to be harmed because of them,” Dunman said.

With states across the U.S. attempting to overturn same-sex marriage bans, Dunman believes that the viewpoint on gay marriage differs not only from state to state, but also from city to city.

“Generally, bigger cities tend to have more socially liberal viewpoints,” Dunman said. “Lexington has a gay mayor, so Louisville and Lexington would be more likely to legalize gay marriage than some parts of Kentucky.”

With the positive outcome of this case, Dunman and his lawyers have the option to amend it to include legalizing in-state same-sex marriage as well. Dunman believes that with the way that the court handled the out-of-state same-sex marriage case, in-state marriages have a good chance of becoming legalized soon. But for now, Bourke and Deleon are celebrating this small victory paving the way for complete marriage equality in Kentucky.

After the overturn was announced, Bourke said, “It was weird calling [Deleon] my husband. The politically correct term has changed so much, I have been calling him my partner even though we’ve been married for 10 years.”

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