LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A federal judge struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage on Tuesday, though the ruling was temporarily put on hold and it was not immediately clear when same-sex couples could be issued marriage licenses.
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn in Louisville concluded the state’s prohibition on same-sex couples being wed violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by treating gay couples differently than straight couples.
Heyburn previously struck down Kentucky’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages from other states and countries, but he put the implementation of that ruling on hold. That decision did not deal with whether Kentucky would have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Instead, Tuesday’s ruling dealt directly with that question.
“Sometimes, by upholding equal rights for a few, courts necessarily must require others to forebear some prior conduct or restrain some personal instinct,” Heyburn wrote. “Here, that would not seem to be the case. Assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the freedom of others to any degree.”
Heyburn noted that every federal court to consider a same-sex marriage ban has found it unconstitutional. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled arguments on rulings from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee in a single session Aug. 6. Although the cases are unique, each deals with whether statewide gay marriage bans violate the Constitution.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said the state will appeal the decision.
Dan Canon, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said he was excited about the ruling because the day will arrive soon when same-sex couples can get a marriage license in Kentucky, even though the decision was put on hold pending appeals.
“We believe the opinion forcefully lays to rest any notion that Kentucky’s anti-marriage laws are based on anything other than discrimination against homosexuals,” Canon said.