Federal judge rules Kentucky must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Kentucky [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that Kentucky must recognize valid out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples living in Kentucky. The case was brought by four same-sex couples living in Kentucky, who had been legally married in Canada or other US states prior to moving to Kentucky. Judge John Heyburn II held that by denying recognition of valid same-sex marriages, Kentucky is in violation of the US Constitution's Equal Protection Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder]. Heyburn further stated that the laws of Kentucky "treat gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them." Heyburn recognized that his decision will likely be unpopular among Kentucky residents, as 74 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment [WP report] banning gay marriage in 2004.

Controversy over same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] continues in the US, with 33 states having bans on the practice and 17 permitting it. On Monday US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] issued a policy memorandum [JURIST report] stating that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] will recognize and extend benefits to all same-sex marriages, including those performed in states that do not recognize them. Also on Monday Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto announced [JURIST report] that her office would no longer be pursuing its legal defense of the state's same-sex marriage ban, stating that recent decisions in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had rendered the state's arguments untenable. On the same day, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] unanimously that a woman in a same-sex marriage may adopt her partner's birth children.

 

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