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Kentucky gay marriage ban nixed, but no weddings yet

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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.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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