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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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