By Ronnie Ellis
Feb. 12, 2014 — FRANKFORT A federal judge has ruled Kentucky’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.
U.S. District Judge John Heyburn ruled while religious beliefs are important to society they aren’t a justification to discriminate based on a class of people. The suit was brought by four gay and lesbian couples.
Heyburn wrote in the memorandum accompanying his order that “recognizing same-sex marriage clashes with many accepted norms in Kentucky” and went on to say many Kentuckians “may be confused — even angry” when a court decision like his calls those views into question.
He said those reactions “are understandable and deserve an answer.” He goes on and writes that “assigning a religious or traditional rationale for a law does not make it constitutional when that law discriminates against a class of people without other reasons.”
Heyburn cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in striking down part of an amendment to the Kentucky constitution approved by voters in 2004. That amendment says “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky.”
In the 23-page opinion, Heyburn does not say Kentucky must permit same-sex marriages to be performed in Kentucky but that it must recognize those from other states.
He rejected arguments by the Family Foundation that recognizing same-sex marriages would undercut the role of procreation in marriage.
Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation, blasted the ruling saying it proves Kentucky voters’ votes don’t count when they don’t correspond to the “political ideology of liberal judges.”
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, called Heyburn’s ruling “tragic and disappointing.”
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.