Judge orders Kentucky to begin recognizing gay marriage

A federal judge in Kentucky took a final step Thursday forcing the state to begin recognizing same-sex marriages performed outside the state. 

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn was following through on his ruling earlier this month that found a portion of the state's constitution, which bans the recognition of gay marriage, violates the U.S. Constitution. 

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On Thursday, the judge wrote the amendment was unlawful and "void and unenforceable."

The order came shortly after the Kentucky attorney general requested the ruling be delayed for 90 days to give defendants time to appeal and the state time to determine the best way to implement the change.

In his initial ruling, Heyburn found Kentucky’s reasoning to preserve “traditional” marriage was not a valid justification. He cited previous arguments in favor of segregation and the deprivation of women’s rights. 

“In time, even the most strident supporters of these views understood that they could not enforce their particular moral views to the detriment of another’s constitutional rights,” he wrote. “Here as well, sometime in the not too distant future, the same understanding will come to pass.”

The ruling did not tackle the issue of whether Kentucky is required to offer same-sex marriage licenses itself. The question was not posed in the case. 

The ruling follows a number of similar cases around the country that have found bans on gay marriage unconstitutional. Many of those district court rulings came with a stay, allowing an appeal to the circuit courts. 

Texas judge on Wednesday issued a temporary injunction on the state's ban on gay marriage. That ruling was stayed until appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Judges in Utah and Oklahoma have recently ruled both states’ marriage bans are unconstitutional, and those decisions have also been delayed pending appeal from the 10th Circuit. A similar ruling took place in Virginia earlier this month, pending appeal by the Fourth Circuit.