Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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July 1, 2014

Judge strikes down Kentucky gay marriage ban

FRANKFORT — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that “even sincere and long-held religious beliefs” do not trump the constitutional rights of gay couples or their right to marry in Kentucky.

Federal District Judge John G. Heyburn II put a stay on his ruling because multiple appeals on the question of same-sex marriage are pending before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, including an earlier ruling by Heyburn that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

But the men who brought the case before Heyburn were elated.

“In all honesty, I didn’t (think this day would come). It was an almost unattainable goal,” said Timothy Love, one of the plaintiffs. “It’s just a wonderful day.”

Another plaintiff, Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, said he and partner and fellow plaintiff Dominique Jones are “elated. We had strong faith this day would come — we did not know this soon. But what a day.”

Heyburn said in his opinion the state’s arguments against same-sex marriages “are not those of serious people,” calling them “disingenuous” and “illogical and even bewildering.”

Nonetheless, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who filed the appeal of Heyburn’s earlier ruling, was not deterred and said he will also appeal the latest one.

“Now that Judge Heyburn has issued his opinion on this portion of the case, we will be appealing the decision so that the matter is fully before the Sixth Circuit, where these same issues from other states are already scheduled to be decided by the Sixth Circuit,” Beshear said.

 Blanchard harshly criticized Beshear for appealing.

 “It’s absolutely ridiculous. To me it has scarred his legacy,” said Blanchard, saying Beshear’s appeals remind him of George Wallace opposing racial integration in the sixties.

 The ruling was criticized by the Family Foundation, a conservative advocacy group which supports the Kentucky ban on same-sex marriage.

 “For all practical purposes, Judge Heyburn has declared martial law on marriage policy in Kentucky,” said Martin Cothran. “This decision is another indication that we are no longer a nation of laws, but a nation of judges.”

 In February, Heyburn ruled Kentucky must recognize valid, same-sex marriages performed in other states but did not opine on whether Kentucky must allow same-sex couples to seek permission to marry within the commonwealth.

 But he subsequently allowed Love and his partner, Lawrence Ysunza, and Blanchard and Jones — to join the original suit, seeking a ruling on their desire to be granted marriage certificates in Kentucky. That’s the part of the case on which Heyburn ruled Monday.

 In Monday’s written order, Heyburn concludes the state has no constitutional authority to “exclude a certain class of individuals, i.e. homosexual persons, from the status and dignity of marriage.”

Both Heyburn rulings find parts of a 1998 law and a 2004 constitutional amendment (Sec. 233A) which define marriage as “between one man and one woman” violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Beshear’s attorneys argued in both cases before Heyburn that only traditional marriage contributed to the state’s economic interest in stable birth rates and the state has an interest in promoting procreation which is possible only with heterosexual couples.

 “These arguments are not those of serious people,” Heyburn wrote in Monday’s ruling. He called the argument that traditional marriage contributes to stable birth rates “a disingenuous twist” to the state’s contention that it has an interest in promoting procreation through traditional marriage.

 Heyburn wrote the state’s arguments that only marriage between a man and a woman promotes its interest in economic stability and in “‘ensuring humanity’s continued existence’ are at best illogical and even bewildering.”

 “Defendant never explains how exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has any effect whatsoever on procreation among heterosexual spouses. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage does not change the number of heterosexual couples who choose to get married, the number who choose to have children, or the number of children they have,” Heyburn wrote.

 Shannon Fauver, the attorney for the gay couples, said Heyburn’s stay was likely to avoid confusion until the Sixth Circuit issues its rulings on the appeals cases.

 “But I believe the conclusion (of the Sixth Circuit) is going to be the same,” Fauver said.

 Love and Blanchard said both couples had considered traveling to other states to be married concluded they should be granted the privilege in their home state. Love also objects to the idea that others can determine his civil rights by a vote lie the one by which Kentucky voters approved the constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage to any but “one man and one woman.”

 “If we start voting for civil rights for other people, then there’s going to be a lot of people in trouble,” Love said. “Civil rights are not up for a vote.”

 RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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Isaiah Caperton and Ryan Ratliff, both 12 years old, ride the Star Trooper on the midway at the Boyd County fair Tuesday. KEVIN GOLDY / THE INDEPENDENT

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