Kentucky could become the first southern state to allow same-sex marriage after a federal judge determined arguments supporting a ban on such relationships were bewildering and irrational.
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled in favor of two gay Louisville couples who challenged the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment and a similar 1998 law violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.
"In America, even sincere and long-hold religious beliefs do not trump the constitutional rights of those who happen to have been out-voted," Heyburn wrote in his ruling.
The judge sharply rejected the only justification for the ban offered by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s lawyers – who argued that traditional marriage contributed to a stable birth rate and the state’s long-term economic stability.
"These arguments are not those of serious people," Heyburn said.
“Though it seems almost unnecessary to explain, here are the reasons why," Heyburn continued. "Even assuming the state has a legitimate interest in promoting procreation, the Court fails to see, and Defendant never explains, how the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has any effect whatsoever on procreation among heterosexual spouses. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage does not change the number of heterosexual couples who choose to get married, the number who choose to have children, or the number of children they have.”
Beshear was forced to hire outside legal counsel from an Ashland firm after the Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway refused to defend the case.
"The state’s attempts to connect the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage to its interest in economic stability and in ‘ensuring humanity’s continued existence’ are at best illogical and even bewildering," Heyburn wrote.
He pointed out that Kentucky does not prohibit other couples who cannot or do not intend to procreate from getting married – which he said revealed the “true hypocrisy” of the state’s procreation argument.
“Numerous courts have repeatedly debunked all other reasons for enacting such laws,” Heyburn wrote. “The Court can think of no other conceivable legitimate reason for Kentucky’s laws excluding same-sex couples from marriage.”
The ruling continues an unbroken string of decisions by federal judges striking down prohibitions against same-sex marriage, which is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
“Assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the freedom of others to any degree,” the judge found. “Thus, same-sex couples’ right to marry seems to be a uniquely ‘free’ constitutional right. Hopefully, even those opposed to or uncertain about same-sex marriage will see it that way in the future.”
Heyburn stayed his ruling until the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules on same-sex marriage cases from Kentucky and three other states.
Oral arguments in those cases are scheduled to begin Aug. 6.
[Image: Happy Gay Couple Getting Married On The Playground Of A Park via Shutterstock]