Kentucky Gay Marriage Appeal Part of Nationwide Trend

Jun 18, 2014

A WKU professor says when an appeals court takes up Kentucky’s case over gay marriage, it will be a “historic showdown.” 

Earlier this year, a federal judge struck down part of Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage.  The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has set August 6 as the day it will consider Kentucky’s appeal, as well as similar cases in Tennessee, Ohio, and Michigan. 

"There's a total of 31 states where there are cases involving marriage equality pending, and that number correlates to the number of states that have same-sex marriage bans, so every single state that has a ban has a case in federal court right now," says WKU legal and constitutional historian Dr. Patty Minter.

Legal experts say hearing all the cases in one day is unusual, but not unprecedented.  It's unclear whether the three-judge panel will issue a individual rulings for each case or a blanket ruling, but there are two issues at hand, including the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages and whether state-level marriage bans are unconstitutional.

Arguments were held in the 4th Circuit in Virginia in May and the 10th Circuit in Denver in April. Rulings in those cases are expected to be issued before Kentucky's case is heard. 

Dr. Minter says a clear trend has been set since last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

"There has not been a single decision that went against the idea that marriage is a fundamental right for all people," adds Minter.

Ultimately, the losing sides in each case will likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.