Breaking: Federal judge strikes down Kentucky’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages from other states (UPDATED)

Here’s some huge, breaking news from the equality front: Today U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II struck down Kentucky’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Progress!

Shannon Ragland of The Kentucky Trial Court Review has the full decision here.

Though the decision strikes down the ban on recognizing marriages performed in other states, it did not rule on Kentucky’s ban on performing same-sex marriages in Kentucky. But here are some of the big highlights:

“Kentucky’s denial of denial of recognition of valid same sex marriages violates the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law even under the most deferential standard of review. Accordingly, Kentucky’s statutes and constitutional amendment that mandate this denial are unconstitutional.


…it is clear that Kentucky’s laws treat gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them.


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.

The beauty of our Constitution is that it accommodates our individual faith’s definition of marriage while preventing the government from unlawfully treating us differently. This is hardly surprising since it was written by people who came to America to find both freedom of religion and freedom from it.


…allowing same-sex couples the state recognition, benefits, and obligations of marriage does not in any way diminish those enjoyed by opposite-sex married couples. No one has offered any evidence that recognizing same-sex marriages will harm opposite-sex marriages, individually or collectively. One’s belief to the contrary, however sincerely held, cannot alone justify denying a selected group their constitutional rights.”

There you go.

And what Kentucky official recommended Judge Heyburn for appointment to the bench? Why it was none other than Sen. Mitch McConnell, who hired Heyburn as special counsel back in the 1970s when he was Jefferson County Judge-Executive.

We’ll update with reactions when they come in.

**** UPDATE #1 ****

Here’s the reaction from Congressman John Yarmuth:

“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.”

**** UPDATE #2 ****

Here’s Michael Aldridge, executive director for the ACLU of Kentucky:

“The ACLU of Kentucky applauds today’s ruling.  Just as the U.S. Supreme Court found this summer in their decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, denying legally married same-sex couples equal recognition and protection under the law is not only unfair, but it is unconstitutional.” 
“The ACLU of Kentucky asks the State to let the ruling stand rather than appealing the decision, as has been done in several other states, most recently in Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Mexico and Virginia.”
“If the decision is appealed, the ACLU of Kentucky will file an amicus brief in support of marriage equality.”

All eyes on AG Jack Conway and Gov. Steve Beshear… stay tuned. (Also the guy who recommended Heyward for appointment…)

**** UPDATE #3 ****

We thought the new and improved Beshear might take a crack at this, but here’s the punt his office just sent us:

“We have just received the opinion and have begun to review it.  The judge has not yet entered a final order, so it would be premature to speculate on what the next steps may be.”

At least he didn’t rip it. Maybe Conway will try that.

**** UPDATE #4 ****

Here’s Matt Bevin tearing into the decision, as well as Mitch McConnell:

“I’m deeply disappointed in Judge Heyburn’s decision to overturn Kentucky’s right to determine the definition of marriage within its own borders. This type of judicial activism hurts America’s democratic process.

“It is no surprise that Judge Heyburn was Mitch McConnell’s general counsel and McConnell recommended him for the federal bench. Kentucky deserves better.”

**** UPDATE #5 ****

Grimes campaign spokesperson Charly Norton sent out this statement that doesn’t touch the Heyburn ruling with a 10-foot pole:

“Alison has been married for seven years and has stated publicly that she wouldn’t want to deny other couples the opportunity to make that same commitment. She’s also made clear that while the Supreme Court has ruled that state sovereignty applies, churches should not be forced to recognize anything inconsistent with their teachings.”

**** UPDATE #6 ****

Here’s Mitch McConnell’s statement, wagging his finger at his old buddy Heyburn:

“The people of Kentucky voted overwhelmingly to enshrine in our Constitution that marriage in our state is between one man and one woman. I am a traditionalist and support that position, but regardless of one’s personal view on the issue, we should be able to agree that only the people of Kentucky, through the legislative process, should have the authority to change the law, not the courts. I will continue to support traditional marriage and fight to make sure that Kentuckians define marriage as we see fit and never have a definition forced on us by interests outside of our state.”

**** UPDATE #7 ****

Backed up near his own endzone on 4th down, Jack Conway punts:

“I took an oath when I was sworn in as Attorney General to uphold Kentucky’s constitution.  I did my duty and defended Kentucky’s constitutional amendment in federal court. Today, Judge Heyburn issued a decision holding that Kentucky’s constitutional amendment conflicts with the United States Constitution.  The order is not final and states that there will be an additional hearing set in the near future.  It would be inappropriate to comment further about the future of this case until that hearing is held and a final order is entered.”

Ahem. Masto. Ahem.

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