Federal judge rules Kentucky must respect same-sex couples’ legal marriages

Today, February 12, 2014, a federal judge ruled that Kentucky must respect the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states. He said, "It is clear that Kentucky’s laws treat gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them."

The judge, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II, was nominated to the seat by President George H. W. Bush, on Senator Mitch McConnell's recommendation, both high-profile Republicans. He is the fourth federal judge in the past few months to declare that anti-marriage laws are unconstitutional, following rulings from Judge Shelby in Utah, Judge Kern in Oklahoma, and Judge Black in Ohio. 

The case, Bourke & Deleon v. Beshear, was filed on July 26, 2013 by private lawyers in Louisville, KY. The case argued that Kentucky's anti-marriage laws violate the due process and equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

The case was filed on behalf of four married same-sex couples living in Kentucky. One of the plaintiff couples, Gregory Bourke and Michael Deleon, have been together for 31 years and married in Canada in 2004. Because of Kentucky's anti-marriage laws, they are treated as an unmarried couple. 

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson explained the significance of the case today. He said:

Today a Republican-appointed federal judge in Kentucky held – as did judges in Utah and Oklahoma weeks ago and as did the U.S. Supreme Court last year – that there is simply no legitimate justification for denying equal protection to same-sex couples, echoing the majority of Americans who support the freedom to marry, including a growing number of conservatives. It is wrong for the government to deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry the person they love; a freedom that is part of every American's liberty and pursuit of happiness. With one of the many cases across the country potentially making it to the Supreme Court as soon as 2015, we must continue to make the case across the country that America - all of America - is ready for the freedom to marry.

One of the plaintiff couples spoke with the Louisville Courier-Journal when they filed the case last summer. Watch here: