Louisville, Ky. • A Kentucky couple on Friday sued the state, seeking to force it to issue same-sex marriage licenses after a federal judge ruled earlier this week that the state must recognize the unions if they are performed in other states or countries.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Louisville seeks to build on that earlier ruling by raising the issue of whether Kentucky should sanction them if they take place in the Bluegrass State.
The suit comes amid a flurry of rulings and other legal activity as activists push more states to recognize gay marriages. A federal judge in Virginia late Thursday struck down that state’s ban, ruling it was unconstitutional.
Also Thursday, activists in Nevada launched a campaign to put a measure on the 2016 ballot giving voters the option to change the state constitution to allow gay marriage, and lawmakers in Wisconsin backed a similar proposal there. Lawsuits in Alabama and Louisiana are seeking to push those states to either acknowledge or allow same-sex unions.
In overturning Kentucky law, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that the 2004 constitutional amendment treated "gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them."
The ruling only requires Kentucky to recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples performed legally in other places. It does not deal with the question of whether the state can be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That issue wasn’t brought up in the four lawsuits that triggered the ruling.
Heyburn noted that recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings and his opinion in the Kentucky case "suggest a possible result to that question."
Heyburn cited multiple rulings related to relationships and privacy in his decision, but focused mainly on last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down sections of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Heyburn cited U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in abrogating Kentucky’s law. In the DOMA case, Kennedy found that by treating same-sex married couples differently than opposite-sex couples violates due process and equal protection principles applicable to the federal government.
With Heyburn’s ruling, Kentucky becomes one of 10 states where state or federal courts have reached similar conclusions about same-sex marriage bans.
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