Federal judge rules Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages


A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, striking down a portion of the state’s constitutional ban that was approved by voters in 2004.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II came after four gay and lesbian couples sued the state seeking to have their out-of-state legal marriages recognized.

In his 23-page ruling, Heyburn wrote that Kentucky’s law treated gay couples in a way “that demeans them.”

In 2004, Georgia voters also approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages as well as prohibiting the recognition of same-sex unions performed in different states. The Kentucky ban also included the provision of not recognizing out-of-state same-sex unions.

Today’s ruling does not address whether or not Kentucky must now allow same-sex marriages to be conducted in the state.

From the ruling:

Many Kentuckians believe in “traditional marriage.” Many believe what their ministers and scriptures tell them: that a marriage is a sacrament instituted between God and a man and a woman for society’s benefit. They may be confused—even angry—when a decision such as this one seems to call into question that view. These concerns are understandable and deserve an answer.

Our religious beliefs and societal traditions are vital to the fabric of society. Though each faith, minister, and individual can define marriage for themselves, at issue here are laws that act outside that protected sphere. Once the government defines marriage and attaches benefits to that definition, it must do so constitutionally. It cannot impose a traditional or faith-based limitation upon a public right without a sufficient justification for it. 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.