On Wednesday, February 12, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II struck down Kentucky’s ban on recognizing valid out of state same-sex marriages, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
Heyburn’s decision makes his court one of nine federal and state courts in striking down such a ban.
The ruling was made in a suit made by four lesbian and gay couples; Heyburn cited the removal of the Defense of Marriage Act in his striking down a portion of Kentucky’s constitutional amendment, which stated, “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky.”
Although same-sex marriage within the state remains banned, Heyburn’s decision is a huge step forward for the southern state.
Heyburn said, “It is clear that Kentucky’s laws treat gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them.”
In a 24-page ruling, Heyburn compared the discrimination against the recognition of same-sex marriages to discrimination against interracial marriages, saying it has been over forty years since the US Supreme Court allowed tradition to dictate who is permitted to marry.
He undermined the argument presented by the Family Foundation of Kentucky, which believes marriage equality demeans the fundamental role of procreation in marriage.
Heyburn dismissed their ideas, pointing out that opposite-sex couples are not required to procreate in marriage either. He also said, “No one has offered any evidence that recognizing same-sex marriages will harm opposite-sex marriages.”
The Family Foundation of Kentucky responded to the ruling with anger, saying in a news release that it “nullifies the right of Kentucky to determine policies regarding marriage,” adding that “if a state like Utah were ever to legalize polygamy, Kentucky would be forced to recognize it under this decision.”
An analyst for the Family Foundation, Martin Cochran, claims that Kentucky voters will be disappointed by Heyburn’s ruling.