A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Kentucky [official website] on Friday granted a stay [text] on the enforcement of his previous ruling [text] instructing Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages. The state requested [text] a stay of 90-days, but Judge John Heyburn II granted only 21 days for the state to implement the new rule. 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." In granting the stay, Heybrun reasoned:
The public interest is twofold: that the Constitution be upheld; and that changes in the law be implemented consistently without undue confusion. Confusion could result from state or local officials being unaware of their precise responsibilities. However, the implementation of the order without confusion is possible with reasonable effort. The Court concludes that a limited stay allows the state proper time to administratively prepare for compliance with the Order.Based on this ruling, Kentucky will now be required to recognize same-sex marriages starting on March 20, 2014. Heyburn noted in particular that the ruling does not involve the issuance of marriage licenses, so the requested extended stay would not be necessary.
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. The original ruling was issued [JURIST report] on Thursday. 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.