A federal judge in Kentucky on Thursday issued a final order [text] requiring state officials to recognize same-sex marriages. Following his February 12 ruling [opinion, PDF], US District Court for the Western District of Kentucky Judge John Heyburn also granted [AP report] a request to allow additional couples seeking full marriage rights to intervene in the case. In response, the state filed [text] a stay of his order pending any appeal, requesting that the court stay the effective date granting relief for 90 days. According to Heyburn's prior ruling, Kentucky's constitutional amendment [text] defining marriage as between "one man and one woman" is a violation of Kentucky law [text] and the Equal Protection Clause under the 14th Amendment [text] of the US Constitution since the language treats same-sex couples "differently in a way that demeans them." Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway [official website] has 30 days to determine whether to file an appeal of the decision. The ruling [JURIST report] makes Kentucky the tenth state to strike down same-sex marriage bans.
The heated debate over same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most polarizing issues currently facing the American legal community, with legal challenges currently before numerous state and federal courts. Earlier this week a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Texas [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a similar Texas constitutional amendment violates the federal constitutional guarantee of equal protection and due process. Also this week Virginia appealed [JURIST report] a federal ruling against the state's same-sex marriage ban. Last week Oregon's Attorney General announced [JURIST report] her intention not to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage in court. Since July attorneys general in Nevada, Virginia and Pennsylvania [JURIST reports] have made similar decisions not to defend bans on same-sex marriage. Also last week, a federal judge in Illinois ruled [JURIST report] that same sex couples in Cook County could be issued marriage licenses immediately, rather than wait until June, when the state's same-sex marriage law goes into effect.