A federal judge struck down a Kentucky ban on recognizing valid gay marriages obtained in other states on Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that the ban violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
Four gay and lesbian couples sued the state for recognition of their valid out-of-state marriages.
Heyburn compared the ban to the prohibition of interracial marriages, which was once law in the state of Kentucky.
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Citing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, the judge struck down part of the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment that read, “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky.”
“It is clear that Kentucky’s laws treat gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them,” Heyburn said.
In his 23-page ruling, Heyburn wrote, “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.”
The Family Foundation of Kentucky argued that same-sex marriage undermines what they consider to be the fundamental role of marriage: procreation.
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Heyburn threw out that argument, noting that opposite-sex couples are not required to procreate in order to get married.
“No one has offered any evidence that recognizing same-sex marriages will harm opposite-sex marriages," he said.
FFK analyst Martin Cochran says the voters will be disappointed with the ruling.
“Kentucky marriage policy will now be dictated from places like Boston and San Francisco,” he said. “If a state like Utah were ever to legalize polygamy, Kentucky would be forced to recognize it under this decision.”
Heyburn did not rule on whether Kentucky must perform gay marriages.