A federal judge in Kentucky ruled this week that the state must recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state.
Judge John Heyburn, who ruled earlier this month that the 2004 state ban on gay marriage treated same-sex couples differently in a way that demeaned them, signed off on the order Thursday.
"To the extent (that state laws) deny validly married same-sex couples equal recognition and benefits under Kentucky and federal law, those laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and they are void and unenforceable," the judge wrote in his two-sentence order.
The order doesn’t go so far as to legalize gay marriage in the state, only dismantling the clause in the 2004 voter-approved gay marriage ban that prevented out-of-state marriages from being recognized in Kentucky.
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“Only some portions of the law were struck down. Judge Heyburn’s order does not pertain to whether or not Kentucky actually has to marry same sex couples; all that this order tells us is that Kentucky cannot discriminate when same sex couples are married out of state or country,” said Nicole Huberfeld, a professor of law at the University of Kentucky.
One Lexington couple, Timothy Burcham and Phillip Marcum, who were married in New York two years ago, were “ecstatic” with the ruling.
"For us, it's long overdue recognition. It allows us to treat our relationship and our assets and our rights and responsibilities the same way that everyone else gets to," said Burcham.
But Kent Ostrander, the Executive Director of The Family Foundation, is one of many who disapprove of the ruling.
“If anyone is married outside of Kentucky we are now required to recognize them and that’s going to get sticky if the polygamy case in Utah passes. Does that mean we will have to recognize polygamy in Kentucky?” he said
Attorney General Jack Conway, who argued for the same-sex marriage ban in court in 2004, filed for a stay of 90 days to review the order before it can be implemented. His office must decide whether to appeal the case in the next 30 days.