Same-sex couples in the state of Kentucky will always remember the date of July 1, 2014. This will be marked as the day that the state’s gay marriage ban was struck down by a federal judge. The ruling was made Tuesday by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn, but was temporarily put on hold by the judge.
According to Heyburn, the state’s prohibition on same-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by not treating gay couples the same as straight couples. Heyburn, who previously struck down Kentucky’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages from other states where gay marriage is legal, focused directly on the unconstitutionality of Kentucky’s current ban.
He wrote, “Sometimes, by upholding equal rights for a few, courts necessarily must require others to forbear some prior conduct or retrain some personal instinct. Here, that would not diminish the freedom of others to any degree.”
Heyburn did not specify whether the state would have to issue marriage licenses, but his ruling followed a trend in other states where federal judges have ruled same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional. Several of those states are currently in the process of appeals and Kentucky is expected to follow that path as Gov. Steve Beshear already made it clear that he will appeal the decision.
As the marriage equality victory tour has made its way to the south again, one of the plaintiffs in the case expressed how “elated and relieved” they were with the ruling. Maurice Blanchard and his partner Dominique James expressed their joy after being denied a marriage license a year ago. Dan Canon, one of their layers, said the decision “forcefully lays to rest that Kentucky’s anti-gay marriage laws were based on anything but invidious discrimination against homosexuals.”
Heyburn cited in his decision that the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment deny gay couples benefits such as leave from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act, family insurance coverage; and the ability to adopt children as a couple. The judge said that the most important element denied to gay couples was the “intangible and emotional benefits of civil marriage.”
Kentucky is the 20th state where a judge have found state marriage band discriminatory. For gay couples in the state, it now becomes about patience as same-sex marriage supporters wait and see how the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rule on cases from Michigan, Tennessee and Ohio.