In a ruling that could open the door to gay marriage in Kentucky, a federal judge has struck down the state’s ban on recognizing same-sex unions performed in states where it is legal.
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled Wednesday that Kentucky’s prohibition violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law by treating gays and lesbians “differently in a way that demeans them.”
Ruling in a suit brought by four gay and lesbian couples and their children, Heyburn said that, while “religious beliefs ... are vital to the fabric of society ... 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’s decision strikes down part of Kentucky’s marriage amendment, enacted in 2004 by 74 percent of the voters, which 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 said the state and groups defending the amendment offered no evidence that recognizing same-sex unions would harm opposite-sex marriages, individually or collectively.
“One’s belief to the contrary, however sincerely held, cannot alone justify denying a selected group their constitutional rights,” he wrote.