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February 12, 2014

Judge: Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A federal judge says Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, even though he stopped short of forcing the state to allow the unions within its own borders.

Ruling in a case brought by four gay and lesbian couples, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn struck down a 1998 Kentucky law and part of a 2004 amendment to the state Constitution that defines marriage as a union between "one man and one woman." He cited the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year that overturned part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in ruling that Kentucky violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In a memo accompanying his order, Heyburn wrote, “recognizing same-sex marriage clashes with many accepted norms in Kentucky." He acknowledged that many Kentuckians will be “confused – even angry” about his decision. But, he added, “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 23-page opinion did not say that Kentucky must permit same-sex marriage - only that it must recognize those performed elsewhere.

Sixteen states currently allow same-sex marriage, with Illinois set to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples later this year. Several other states recognize civil unions, or same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. This week Nevada officials said they will no longer defend their state's ban on same-sex marriage in federal court.

Reaction to the judge's ruling in Kentucky was mixed, though some of it was pitched.

State Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, took to the state House floor to say Kentucky should appeal the ruling to uphold its Constitution and the will of its people. He said the ruling “breaks my heart.”

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Poll

Do you think "blue laws" related to Sunday alcohol sales in Oklahoma should be relaxed? Choose the option that most closely reflects your opinion.

Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars, and liquor stores should be open.
Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars only; liquor stores should stay closed.
Liquor stores should be open Sundays, but drinks should not be served anywhere on Sundays.
The law should remain as it is now; liquor stores should be closed, and drinks should be served on Sundays according to county option.
No alcohol should be sold or served publicly on Sundays.
Undecided.
     View Results
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