Movement toward same-sex marriage (SSM) in Kentucky.
1972 to now: The path towards legalizing same-
sex marriage in Kentucky via the federal courts.
A brief timeline of activity:
- 1972: Two women attempted to obtain a marriage license, were refused, and filed a lawsuit. The state Supreme Court dismissed their complaint, stating that marriage is a union of one woman and one man, not two women.
- 1998: The Kentucky Legislature passed a "Defense of Marriage" law banning same-sex marriage. This was done six years before the first state -- Massachusetts -- actually legalized SSM.
2004: KY voters amended the state constitution to ban SSMs, civil unions and domestic partnerships. The plebiscite passed by a vote of 74% in favor, and 26% opposed.
- 2013-JUL-26: This is exactly one month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in v. Windsor v. United States -- the case that declared Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. A gay couple, Gregory Bourke and Michael Deleon, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. They had been together for over three decades, and had married almost a decade previously in Niagara Falls, ON, Canada, Their main goal was to have the court require the state to recognize legal out-of-state marriages by same-sex couples. Judge John G. Heyburn, II was assigned to the case, which is referred to as Bourke v. Breshear.
- 2013-AUG: Three additional plaintiff same-sex couples were added. The had married in three U.S. states where SSMs were legal. Also named as plaintiffs are two minor children from each of two couples. The defendants were the Governor and Attorney General of Kentucky, as well as a County Clerk.
- 2014-FEB-12: Judge Heyburn issued a memorandum opinion for the case. He noted that state governments have the responsibility to define marriage within their borders. However, he wrote that a state cannot "impose a traditional or faith-based limitation" to marriage unless it has a sufficient justification. Dozens of other federal judges have recently said essentially the same thing elsewhere in the country when dealing with SSM cases. However, religious and social conservatives generally hold the opinion that states can pass laws or amend their constitution to ban SSMs even if their actions violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Judge Heyburn rejected all the reasons that the
Family Trust Foundation had provided for banning SSMs. He noted that each reason had:
"... failed rational basis review in every court to consider them post-Windsor, and most courts pre-Windsor."
- Circa 2014-FEB-13: Various conservative Christian groups, like the National Organization for Marriage and the Kentucky Baptist Convention condemned Judge Hayburn's memorandum opinion. They used phrases like: "spiraling further in to chaos," "coerced modification," "Constitution ... undermined," "religious liberty under attack," "morally depraved," etc.
- 2014-FEB-14: Judge Heyburn was expected to issue his final ruling by mid-March. The Attorney General is waiting for that ruling before deciding whether to appeal the case to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
- 2014-FEB-14: Two unmarried gay couples have filed a second complaint with the District Court. They are represented by the same six lawyers as are represented the plaintiffs in Bourke v. Breshear. The two couples hope to join that case with the goal of having the Court order Kentucky to marry same-sex couples within its borders.
- 2014-FEB-27: U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn issues a ruling legalizing recognition of out-of-state marriages by same-sex couples. A short stay is imposed to allow the Attorney General to decide whether to appeal the ruling.
This timeline will be extended as additional events occur.
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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2014-FEB-16
Latest update: 2014-MAR-01
Author: B.A. Robinson