Kentucky is the latest state to lose its argument for banning same-sex nuptials in federal court.
On Tuesday, Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that the Bluegrass State’s marriage law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. He joins more than a dozen other federal judges across the country who have come to the same conclusion.
“Assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the freedom of others to any degree," wrote Heyburn, a President George H.W. Bush appointee, in his opinion. Heyburn temporarily put the effects of his ruling on hold, meaning gay and lesbian couples still cannot marry in the state.
Later on Tuesday, a federal appeals court ordered Indiana officials to recognize the out-of-state marriage between two women, one of whom is battling terminal cancer. The Hoosier State was briefly the 20th in the nation where gay and lesbian couples could wed, after a federal judge struck down the state's ban last week and did not put his ruling on hold. But late Friday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals halted further same-sex nuptials from taking place for the duration of the appeals process. Lawyers for Lambda Legal then asked the Seventh Circuit to acknowledge the marriage between Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, who has stage four ovarian cancer, on Quasney's death certificate.
In February, Judge Heyburn concluded that Kentucky officials had to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages in a decision that struck down part of the state’s decade-old ban, which voters overwhelmingly approved by 74%. Kentucky was one of the first states in the nation to enact a constitutional amendment both barring gay and lesbian couples from marrying in the state, and forbidding government officials and agencies from honoring same-sex marriages performed anywhere else.
The February ruling left in place the portion of the law allowing clerks to deny gay and lesbian couples marriage licenses, as that question was not part of the earlier lawsuit. But Tuesday’s decision overturns the ban in its entirety.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, said the state will appeal the decision, according to the Associated Press. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments all together in marriage equality lawsuits from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee next month. No ban has survived in federal court since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision to dismantle the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) one year ago.