In another triumph for marriage equality, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II has struck down Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage.
His ruling Tuesday follows a similar ruling June 25 by a U.S. district judge in Indiana striking down that state’s ban. It continues an unbroken string of such rulings in federal court in which judges have struck down state rules prohibiting gay marriage, The Courier-Journal’s Andrew Wolfson reported Wednesday.
In his opinion and order, Judge Heyburn finds in clear and compelling language that Kentucky law forbidding same-sex marriage violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution which bars states from enacting or enforcing laws that deny people equal protection under the law.
Kentucky’s laws — a 1998 law defining marriage as between one man and one woman and a 2004, voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions — “violate plaintiffs’ constitutional rights and do not further any conceivable legitimate government purpose,” Judge Heyburn said.
The plaintiffs, gay couples Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza and Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James, celebrated the decision, though enforcement has been delayed while the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals hears appeals of same-sex decisions from four states including one in which Judge Heyburn previously had ruled Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
Yet the decision was met with predictable bombast from groups such as the Family Foundation, which claimed the judge had declared “martial law on marriage policy.” Kentucky’s senior Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Louisville Republican, condemned the ruling, saying he supports Kentucky law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
Judge Heyburn addressed such individual objections, noting that “in America even sincere and long-held religious views do not trump the constitutional rights of those who have been outvoted.”
As the dispute works its way toward the U.S. Supreme Court, let us hope that view prevails.
Already, emboldened by Monday’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision allowing employers to restrict birth control benefits because of religious views, a group of religious leaders is seeking exemption from a presidential directive that would prohibit federal contractors from discrimination against gays, The Atlantic reported.
The Hobby Lobby decision hinged on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, meant to protect freedom of religious expression.
It must not become a vehicle to expand discrimination.
— The Courier-Journal, Louisville