HRC Blog

Kentucky Marriage Ban Struck Down by Federal Judge

Today U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II issued his second marriage equality ruling in recent months, this time striking down Kentucky’s prohibition on marriages between same-sex couples in the Bluegrass state. In Love v. Beshear, two same-sex couples in Kentucky sued the state, arguing that Kentucky’s refusal to grant them marriage licenses violates the U.S. Constitution.  In his ruling, Judge Heyburn wrote, “Assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the freedom of others to any degree. Thus, same-sex couples’ right to marry seems to be a uniquely ‘free’ constitutional right.”  The judge stayed his ruling, pending appeal to the Sixth Circuit.

“It seems that not a day goes by where we don’t see clear evidence of America’s untempered momentum toward equality,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.  “Today’s marriage ruling makes clear that Kentucky should not be denying committed and loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. We congratulate the plaintiffs and their attorneys and thank them for making today’s victory possible.”

In February of this year, Judge Heyburn ruled in Bourke v. Beshear that Kentucky ’s marriage ban violates the constitutional principle of equal protection and that the Commonwealth cannot refuse to recognize valid same-sex marriages conducted in other states. The judge, who was appointed to the bench by President George H. W. Bush, sided with four plaintiff couples who had legally married elsewhere before seeking state recognition in Kentucky. The Bourke case is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and argument has been set for August 6.

Nationally, Gallup puts support for marriage equality at 55 percent – an astonishing 15 points increase from just 5 years ago – with other polls showing support at even higher margins.  And support for same-sex marriage rights continues to grow in virtually every demographic group.  According to ABC News / Washington Post, 77 percent of adults under age 30 favor marriage equality.  40 percent of Republicans – an all-time high and jump of 16 points in under two years – now support marriage for gay and lesbian couples, while the number of Catholics supporting marriage has grown to 62 percent, according to the New York Times.  These numbers continue to grow, with no indication that support will slow down. 

There are over 70 court cases challenging discriminatory marriage bans across the country in 30 states and Puerto Rico.  So far six federal appeals courts are presiding over 11 marriage equality cases over the coming weeks and months. The Sixth Circuit holds the distinction of being the only federal appeals court to date that will consider marriage cases from all states within its jurisdiction.  Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic marriage rulings last year, no state marriage ban has survived a federal court challenge.  

Same-sex couples can legally marry in nineteen states and the District of Columbia, while 31 states have a law or constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman.  Learn more about this and other marriage equality cases at www.americansformarriageequality.org

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