Kentucky gay marriage ban nixed, but no weddings yet

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Gay marriage advocates nationwide heralded the ruling striking down deeply conservative Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage as a significant milestone, though matrimonies won't begin in earnest there anytime soon.

Tuesday's ruling by a federal judge, which said Kentucky's ban violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, was put on hold because similar cases from other states are being heard by a federal appeals court. It's unclear when Kentucky may begin issuing marriage licenses.

It's a conundrum that's played out nationwide in the fight to legalize gay marriage: The rulings mark a significant shift as rulings in favor of gay marriage pile up, but confusion emerges as to when those marriages can begin. In Wisconsin, for example, same-sex couples had a window of about a week to get married before a judge ordered officials to stop issuing them marriage licenses. And in Utah, more than 1,000 couples who rushed to marry after a judge overturned that state's ban will have to keep waiting for many legal benefits of being married.

For now, lead plaintiff Timothy Love of Louisville said he will celebrate the latest victory with his partner of 34 years, 55-year-old Larry Ysunza.

"It's a win and we're going to win in the end. Now, the headline is 'Love Wins,'" Love said Tuesday afternoon.

He also said he anticipated a wait: "We all probably have to wait until the Supreme Court makes its decision" on gay marriage bans across the nation.

In the Kentucky case, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II concluded that the state's prohibition on same-sex couples being wed violates the Equal Protection Clause by treating gay couples differently than straight couples. Heyburn previously struck down Kentucky's ban on recognizing same-sex marriages from other states and countries, but he put the implementation of that ruling on hold.

"Sometimes, by upholding equal rights for a few, courts necessarily must require others to forebear some prior conduct or restrain some personal instinct," Heyburn wrote. "Here, that would not seem to be the case. Assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the freedom of others to any degree."

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said the state will appeal Heyburn's decision.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled arguments on rulings from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee in a single session on Aug. 6. Although the cases are unique, each deals with whether statewide gay marriage bans violate the Constitution. It's not yet clear if Kentucky's appeal of the latest decision will also be heard in that session.

Plaintiffs' attorney Dan Canon said the appeals court decision would likely determine the fate of Kentucky's ban, regardless of any move by the governor.

Heyburn noted that every federal court to consider a same-sex marriage ban has found it unconstitutional. Gay rights activists have won 18 cases in federal and state courts since the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied to legally married same-sex couples a range of benefits generally available to married heterosexuals.

Heyburn, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, dismissed the governor's argument that Kentucky's prohibition encouraged, promoted and supported relationships among people who have the "natural ability to procreate" and a stable birth rate ensures the state's long-term economic stability.

"These arguments are not those of serious people," Heyburn wrote.

Martin Cothran, a senior policy analyst with the Family Foundation of Kentucky, said Heyburn erred in considering same-sex couples "politically powerless" in today's society.

"We're thinking this judge needs to get out a little more," Cothran said. "Or maybe he could just subscribe to a newspaper or possibly turn on the television, where he could see just how politically powerless are the people whose political power helped produce this decision."

Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, a group backing same-sex marriage, said the ruling shows the public is ready to remove the legal bans put in place in many states.

"It is wrong for the government to deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry the person they love; a freedom that is part of every American's liberty and pursuit of happiness," Wolfson said.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.