Nearly a decade ago, Kentucky voters approved a ban on marriage equality that included a specific and important provision: if a same-sex couple gets legally married in another state and then moves to Kentucky, the Bluegrass State will not recognize that marriage.
Today, a federal court ruled that the law is unconstitutional.
In a ruling that could open the door to gay marriage in Kentucky, a federal judge on Wednesday struck down Kentucky’s ban on recognizing valid same-sex marriages performed in other states, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II joined nine other federal and state courts in invalidating such bans.
In his ruling, Heyburn concluded, “[I]t is clear that Kentucky’s laws treat gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them.”
Note, Heyburn was nominated for the federal bench by Bush/Quayle. He’s a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who recommended Heyburn for the judiciary.
It will be awkward, in other words, for opponents of marriage equality if they try to characterize Heyburn as a liberal activist. Indeed, it will be especially difficult if McConnell himself pushes the argument.
So what happens now?
Kentucky will likely appeal today’s ruling, but it’s worth emphasizing that this decision does not automatically clear the way for same-sex marriage in the state.
The Courier-Journal’s report explained, “The suit asked only that Kentucky be required to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere; it is unclear whether the ruling also opens the door to allowing gay couples to get married in Kentucky, which the state’s constitution forbids.”
Update: The ruling is already being hailed by one prominent Kentucky Democrat, Rep. John Yarmuth, who said in a statement, “I am proud of the four Kentucky families who are standing up for marriage equality in this lawsuit and of the thousands more who continue this fight every day. Today’s ruling is an important step forward in the march toward recognition of all marriages under the law and full equality in our Commonwealth.”