Joining an ever-growing list of states, a federal judge in Kentucky has ruled the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn in Louisville ruled that Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, which is part of the Fourteenth Amendment and prohibits states from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Judge Heyburn pointed out in his ruling that every other federal court that has evaluated the issue of same-sex marriage has found it unconstitutional. He wrote:
Sometimes, by upholding equal rights for a few, courts necessarily must require others to forebear some prior conduct or restrain some personal instinct. Here, that would not seem to be the case. Assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the freedom of others to any degree.
Basically, allowing same-sex couples to get married like everyone else does not infringe upon or influence the rights of any other citizen, only the same-sex couples, Heyburn ruled.
"We believe the opinion forcefully lays to rest any notion that Kentucky's anti-marriage laws are based on anything other than discrimination against homosexuals," Dan Canon, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, told the AP.
Judge Heyburn had previously ruled against Kentucky's ban on recognizing same-sex couples from other states and countries in February, but that decision, which is currently on hold pending appeals, did not address whether or not same-sex couples could be issued marriage licenses in the state.
Tuesday's decision addressed that very issue, but he is also putting it on hold pending the outcome of several gay marriage cases at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 6. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, who hired attorney Leigh Latherow to defend the ban, announced that the state will also appeal Heyburn's latest ruling.
If Heyburn's ruling sticks, Kentucky will be the 20th state — in addition to the District of Columbia — to legalize gay marriage. The state's appeal would stay the decision, putting Kentucky's same-sex couples in the same boat as those in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, Michigan, Arkansas, Idaho, Wisconsin, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, and Indiana, who all have stayed rulings on gay marriage pending appeals.
Besides the tax and insurance benefits that married couples receive, Heyburn noted that "perhaps most importantly," under the state's ban, same-sex couples are denied the "intangible and and emotional benefits of civil marriage."
Beshear's lawyers defended the ban by stating that traditional marriage keeps the birth rate stable and maintains the state's economy.
Heyburn rejected the defense, saying in his ruling, "These arguments are not those of serious people." You tell 'em, Heyburn.