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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 28 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 09
Federal judge to Kentucky: Recognize legal same-sex marriages now
Section One
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Federal judge to Kentucky: Recognize legal same-sex marriages now

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II issued final orders on February 27 in a case brought by same-sex couples who wanted the state of Kentucky to recognize their marriages from other jurisdictions.

Kentucky laws barring such recognition 'violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and they are void and unenforceable,' Heyburn wrote.

The effect of Heyburn's final order is that already married same-sex couples will now be allowed to change their names on official identification documents and obtain any other benefits that pertain to married couples in Kentucky.

Heyburn had published his opinion in the case on February 12. In that document, Heyburn concluded that the government may define marriage and attach benefits to it, but cannot 'impose a traditional or faith-based limitation without a sufficient justification for it.'

'Assigning a religious or traditional rationale for a law does not make it constitutional when that law discriminates against a class of people without other reasons,' Heyburn wrote.

In issuing his final orders, the judge ignored a request by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway for a 90-day delay to allow the state to consider whether to appeal.

Conway's motion also said Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear needed additional time to decide how to implement the order if it is not appealed.

Conway did not say whether he would ultimately appeal Heyburn's ruling. Six other state Attorneys General have announced they will not defend their state's laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said state officials need not defend such laws.

Heyburn had said on February 26 that he would not issue a stay of his ruling to accommodate the state's appeal. 'There could be some confusion' if couples seek legal benefits associated with their same-sex marriages, and the state later appeals and delays implementation of his order, the judge said.

The same day, Heyburn also allowed a new group of plaintiffs to intervene in the case and demand that Kentucky county clerks issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples.

The new plaintiffs are Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza, who have lived together for 33 years, and Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James, who have been together for 10 years.

Heyburn denied the new plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction, a court ruling that would require Kentucky to issue same-sex marriage certificates immediately. The new case must move through the legal process just as the original case did because some of its facts are unique, the judge said.

'I've got a couple of plaintiffs who have been waiting for 30 years to get married,' one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Daniel Canon, told Heyburn. 'The court has already ruled on their constitutional rights in the matter. I don't think they should have to wait any longer.'

'I appreciate that people have waited a long time,' Heyburn responded, 'but I think it's more important that the process be fair. We're talking about a matter of months.'

Heyburn was appointed to the federal bench by President George H. W. Bush.

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