gay marriage

A U.S. appeals court in Chicago has ruled that gay marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana are unconstitutional.

Thursday's decision by a three-judge panel at the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals bumps the number of states where gay marriage will be legal from 19 to 21. The decision was unanimous.

The Wisconsin and Indiana cases shifted to Chicago after their attorneys general appealed separate lower court rulings in June tossing the bans. The 7th Circuit stayed those rulings pending its own decision.

Alix Mattingly

In oral arguments Wednesday before a federal appeals court, Gov. Steve Beshear's attorney re-emphasized a stance that same-sex should not be allowed because the couples cannot procreate, raising issues for Kentucky's population growth and economy.

The three-judge panel from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals will decide the fate of same-sex marriage bans in four states, including Kentucky, as the issue winds its way toward a likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case could prove "pivotal" because, unlike past federal appeals courts that took up the same-sex marriage issue, the 6th Circuit may allow to stand state laws banning such marriage, legal observer Carl Tobias told Kentucky Public Radio before the arguments. 

If appeals court affirmed the state laws, these cases would have a greater chance of being argued before the Supreme Court, said Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

The appeals court will likely render an opinion within the next several months.

Gregory Bourke

Gregory Bourke of Louisville has waited a long time for his day in court.

“Thirty-two years we’ve been together," Bourke told WKU Public Radio.  "Most other couples would have been married and recognized and put all this to rest a long time ago.”

Bourke, his husband, and their adopted children will be in the courtroom Wednesday as the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals takes up gay marriage fights in Kentucky and three other states.

“I think this is a major historic moment in the history of American constitutional law," suggested Dr. Patti Minter, a legal and constitutional historian at WKU. 

The cases from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Michigan are each unique, but they all deal with whether statewide gay marriage bans violate the Constitution.

The legal arguments for and against gay marriage bans in Kentucky and three other states will be heard Wednesday in Cincinnati's 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court will hear oral arguments in six cases to determine whether same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky are constitutional.

Laura Landenwich is an attorney for a same-sex couple in Louisville involved in this week’s hearing, challenging the state’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage.

“What we are seeing with all of these decisions that have come down over the last year, is that once you start looking at the constitutional implications of these bans, they cannot pass constitutional review," Landenwich said. "So hopefully what we’re going to do is restore rights that should have already been there in the first place.”

The outcome of Wednesday’s hearing will likely lead to the cases being heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kentucky’s gay marriage case will go before a GOP-leaning panel next month.  The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati is made up of two Republican appointees and one Democratic. 

Appellate judges Jeffrey Sutton and Deborah Cook were appointed by President George W. Bush.  The Courier-Journal reports Sutton’s nomination was adamantly opposed by liberal groups.  In March, he wrote in Harvard Law Review “Count me as a skeptic when it comes to the idea that this day and age suffers from a shortage of constitutional rights.” 

The other judge considering Kentucky’s case is Martha Craig Daughtrey, appointed by President Bill Clinton. 

Legal experts are quick to note that district judges from both parties have struck down gay marriage bans.  And Sutton, whose nomination was so fiercely opposed by liberals, wrote the first federal appeals court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act. 

Lawyers for Governor Beshear are asking the appeals court to reverse rulings from U.S. District Judge John Heyburn that Kentucky must recognize out-of-state gay marriages and allow them to be performed in Kentucky. 

The same panel on August 6 will take up similar cases from Tennessee, Ohio, and Michigan.

Judge Strikes Down Kentucky's Gay Marriage Ban

Jul 1, 2014

A federal judge has ruled that Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, a decision that could pave the way for same-sex couples to get married in the state.

Federal Judge John Heyburn ruled Tuesday that the state’s 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause, calling the state’s counter argument that gay couples can’t contribute to the state’s economic well being because they can’t procreate “illogical” and “bewildering.”

Dan Cannon is an attorney for the couples involved in the suit. He tells Kentucky Public Radio it’s only a matter of time before Kentucky joins 19 states that have legalized same-sex marriages.

“We’re excited about the ruling and we’re optimistic about it, and we’re optimistic that same-sex couples will in the very near future be able to get marriage licenses in Kentucky,” said Cannon.  

In a statement, Gov. Steve Beshear says he plans to appeal Heyburn’s ruling in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Strikes Down Indiana Ban on Gay Marriage

Jun 25, 2014

A federal judge has struck down Indiana's ban on gay marriage, calling it unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled Wednesday that the state's ban violates the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection clause in a mixed ruling involving lawsuits from several gay couples.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the ruling means same-sex marriages can begin in the state.

The Indiana attorney general's office says it will appeal.

Federal courts across the country have struck down gay marriage bans recently, but many of those rulings are on hold pending appeal. Attorneys on both sides of the issue expect the matter to eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court.

It also wasn't immediately clear what impact Wednesday's ruling might have on a faltering movement to add a gay marriage ban into the Indiana Constitution.

Lance Dennee

Same-sex Kentucky couples are heading to the commonwealth's only contiguous state that allows same sex marriage to make their unions legal.  

Illinois began issuing marriage licenses for the first time officially on June 1.

Massac County Clerk John Taylor says the office has been busy, issuing at least 20 licenses in May, ahead of the state deadline, most of which he says came from out of state.

“It’s busy because we’re getting a lot of questions, a lot of phone calls," said Taylor. "We have issued a bunch about 14 or 15 marriages and we already issued six yesterday, from Tennessee, Kentucky, we’ve had some from Florida.”

Taylor said the office issued six this morning, including Kentuckians Hunter Fawks and Seth Stewart who drove over six hours from Ashland to pick up their licenses.

Indiana Republicans will vote next month on a provision in their party’s platform that would reintroduce language about “traditional marriage.”

The Indiana GOP eliminated the language regarding traditional marriage in 2012. But party delegates  last week decided to reintroduce the issue to the party platform. Republican delegates next month will vote on whether to add the following language to their platform: “We believe that strong families, based on marriage between a man and a woman, are the foundation of society.”

Not all Hoosier State Republicans back the effort to reintroduce marriage language into the party’s platform. The Indianapolis Star-Tribune quotes GOP delegate Megan Robertson—who is gay—as saying the effort is “bad for the Republican Party.”

While the proposed platform also contains language that recognizes “diverse” family structures, Robertson says the platform should focus on issues that unite the party, as opposed to dividing it.

Those backing the platform say it contains recognition of “blended families, grandparents, guardians, and loving adults” who raise children.

Kentucky Ordered to Pay $70K in Gay Marriage Case

May 14, 2014

A federal judge has ordered Kentucky to pay $70,000 in attorney's fees to the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that resulted in the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II on Wednesday immediately put the order on hold, though, pending the result of an appeal of his ruling in the case.

Heyburn concluded that the lawsuit brought by two couples who were married in other states or countries over the past 10 years and sought to force Kentucky to recognize their unions was novel and difficult. Heyburn ruled that the plaintiffs' attorneys showed "considerable skill" in winning the case and the fees requested were reasonable.

Heyburn's decision to recognize out-of-state marriages is on hold until the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the case.

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