NPR Story
12:06 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Kentucky's Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Is Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Says

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 4:21 pm

Update 2 p.m.: An Appeal

Gov. Steve Beshear plans to appeal a federal judge's opinion on Tuesday that Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution.

On the other side, plaintiffs' attorney Dan Canon said he's pleased with the judge's order—even if, unlike other states, an immediate stay was issued preventing same-sex couples from immediately being allowed to marry.

"We’re optimistic that same-sex couples will in the very near future be able to get marriage licenses in Kentucky," Canon told WFPL on Tuesday afternoon.

Related: WFPL's past coverage of same-sex marriage challenges in Kentucky and Indiana.

Canon said Senior U.S. District Judge John Heyburn's order on Tuesday and the February order on out-of-state same-sex marriages were "forceful." Canon pointed to this line in Heyburn's order, directed at part of the argument in the state's recent appeal of the out-of-state same-sex marriage case:

The state’s attempts to connect the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage to its interest in economic stability and in “ensuring humanity’s continued existence” are at best illogical and even bewildering.

“I think that the overall effect of both Kentucky opinions is that it lays to rest any notion that there’s any sort of rational basis for the legislative scheme that the Commonwealth of Kentucky has come up with to keep same-sex couples from getting married," Canon said.

The firm hired by the state following Attorney General Jack Conway's decision to not pursue an appeal referred questions to Gov. Steve Beshear's office.

In a statement, Beshear said the state will appeal "so that the matter is fully before the Sixth Circuit, where these same issues from other states are already scheduled to be decided by the Sixth Circuit.”

Canon said he doesn't expect this case to be consolidated with the other same-sex marriage cases before the appeals court, because those cases have been briefed and are set to have oral arguments in August. 

In a news conference live-streamed by The Courier-Journal, one of the plaintiffs, Timothy Love, said he's confident the final outcome of the court proceedings will allow for same-sex marriage in Kentucky.

Love, a Louisville resident, sought in February a marriage license with his longtime partner, Lawrence Ysunza. They were denied.

“I was hoping whenever this ruling came down that we would see lines at the courthouse, couples getting married just like what happened in Indiana," Love said. 

"But we understand that this is part of the legal process.” 

Related: Same-Sex Couples Get Married in Jeffersonville

A stay was issued Friday in Indiana, ending a brief period where same-sex couples were married in some counties.

Earlier: Kentucky's laws banning same-sex couples from being married in the state are unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

Senior U.S. District Judge John Heyburn's order strikes down Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban, but he also issued a stay pending an order from a federal appeals court. So Kentucky same-sex couples will have no period where they'll be able to be married in the state, as happened last week in Indiana. 

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 6 will hear oral arguments in an appeal of another of Heyburn's orders—that the state must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

Like the previous out-of-state same-sex marriage case, Heyburn said Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.

We'll update with reaction later today.

Here's the order:

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