Midwest States Inching Toward Acceptance of Gay Marriage

Gay and lesbian couples in several states gained ground this week in the battle for marriage equality.

Luke Barlowe, front left, his partner, Jim Meade, rear left, Randy Johnson, front right, and his partner Paul Campion answer questions from reporters following the announcement by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn striking down Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban Wednesday.

Luke Barlowe, front left, his partner, Jim Meade, rear left, Randy Johnson, front right, and his partner Paul Campion answer questions from reporters following the announcement by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn striking down Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban Wednesday. 

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On Wednesday, a federal judge abolished Kentucky's ban on recognizing same-sex couples married outside of the state, calling it unconstitutional. Nine other states and federal court judges have passed similar rulings. 

Four gay and lesbian couples brought lawsuits before U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II, who decided that “assigning a religious or traditional rationale for a law does not make it constitutional when that law discriminates against a class of people without other reasons,” reported The Courier Journal, a Kentucky newspaper.

“Jim and I have been together in November it was 45 years, and we went back to Iowa and got married in 2009,” said Luther Barlowe, 71, one of the plaintiffs during a press conference. He paused, adding, "before I died,” and chuckled.

[READ: Virginia AG Won't Defend Gay Marriage Ban in Court]

Barlowe said he and his partner Jimmy Meade had kept their relationship a secret for years, but were inspired by Greg Bourke and Michael Deleon, two other plaintiffs, to come forward.  “We decided it was time that we tried to do something for the people coming behind us,” Barlowe said. Bourke and Deleon's lawyer Shannon Fauver, said she plans to file a suit on their behalf contesting the ban on gay marriage within the state on Friday, Valentine's Day.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization of Marriages said Wednesday’s decision only underscores the need for congressional action to reinforce states' rights to independently determine the laws governing marriage including "determinations protected from coerced modification through dubious readings of the 14th Amendment.”

Following in the Kentucky plaintiffs' footsteps, eight gay couples sued Missouri on Wednesday. Their lawsuit requests that the state affirm all same-sex marriages where couples were wed in other states or countries in places where same-sex marriage is legal, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The lawsuit does not aim to repeal Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriage within the state.

Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU of Missouri, told the Post-Dispatch, he believes Missouri voters "did not intend the harm it caused these couples" when they banned gay marriage in 2004.

John Eastman, a law professor and chairman of the National Organization of Marriages board of directors noted that the implications of the judge's decision in Kentucky could be broader than people imagine. "Because if a marriage is validly entered in Saudi Arabia between a man and five women and then they come to Kentucky to take up residence, under the reasoning of this decision Kentucky would have to recognize that marriage as well."

Meanwhile Nevada’s Democratic attorney general and Republican governor announced that Nevada will no longer oppose those attempting to reverse the ban on same-sex marriage in federal court, reported Reuters.

[ALSO: Gay Republicans Divide the GOP]

State Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto told Reuters that the state has filed a motion to rescind a brief it sent a month ago that favored a ban on same sex marriage in a matter pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. In 2000 and 2002 voters in Nevada approved an amendment to ban same-sex marriage claiming “only a marriage between a male and a female person shall be recognized and given effect.” 

Eastman called the governor's decision "an act of cowardice."  He added, "Defending marriage between a man and a woman is such a bedrock institution of civil society that it’s a compelling governmental interest and yet they’ve thrown in the towel entirely." 

In a speech  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder delivered at a gala for the Human Rights Campaign on Feb. 10, he affirmed that concerns regarding equal rights in the LGBT community are a "top priority" of the Obama administration. 

"This is no time to back down, to give up, or to give in to the unjust and unequal status quo. Neither tradition nor fear of change can absolve us of the obligation we share to combat discrimination in all its forms. And despite everything that’s been achieved, each of us has much more work to do," said Holder.