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Federal Court Compels Kentucky to Recognize Out-of-State Same-Sex Marriages
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U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II in the Western District of Kentucky at Louisville has struck down Kentucky’s constitutional and statutory provisions that excluded same-sex couples married out-of-state from state recognition and marriage benefits available to opposite-sex couples who were similarly situated and married out-of-state.

Same-sex marriage bans have been similarly struck down recently by federal courts in Oklahoma, Utah, Ohio, California and other states, while the Supreme Court of New Mexico also struck down same-sex marriage bans on similar grounds.

  
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The judge wrote “While Kentucky unquestionably has the power to regulate the recognition of civil marriages, those regulations must comply with the Constitution of the United States …”

In summing up the issue before the court, Judge Heyburn observed the issue was whether Kentucky could justifiably deny those in same-sex marriages the benefits it currently awards to opposite-sex spouses.

And in clarifying popular misconceptions about the issue, the court observed, “For those not trained in legal discourse, the questions may be less logical and more emotional. They concern issues of faith, beliefs and traditions. Our Constitution was designed both to protect religious beliefs and prevent unlawful government discrimination based upon them.”

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Commenting that the plaintiffs were average stable American families, the court struck down Kentucky’s denial of recognition for valid same-sex marriage as it violates the guarantee of equal protection under the law enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The court pointed out that certain federal protections are available only to couples whose marriage is legally recognized by their home state: “For example, a same-sex spouse in Kentucky cannot take time off work to care for a sick spouse under the Family Medical Leave Act. 29 C.F.R. § 825.122(b). In addition, a same-sex spouse in Kentucky is denied access to a spouse’s social security benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(1)(A)(i). No one denies these disparities.”



While striking down Kentucky’s laws, Heyburn observed, it will, “make real the promise of equal protection under the law. It will profoundly affect validly married same-sex couples’ experience of living in the commonwealth and elevate their marriage to an equal status in the eyes of the state law.”



 

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