A Kentucky federal judge on Thursday ruled in favor of gay couples, ordering state officials to recognize same-sex unions performed in states where they are legal. Judge John Heyburn ruled that Kentucky’s marriage laws violate the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause and are therefore “void and unenforceable.” Heyburn did not issue a stay on his order, though Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has asked for a 90-day delay on the decision. For now, the ruling will go into effect. Heyburn's decision does not affect a related case where plaintiffs are seeking to end Kentucky’s ban on gay marriage.
The Kentucky ruling follows a string of court victories for gay marriage advocates. Yesterday, federal judge Orlando Garcia declared Texas' ban on gay marriage unconstitutional (but delayed the ruling’s implementation while an appeals court considers the issue). Courts have also recently struck down gay marriage bans in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia.
On Wednesday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed a hotly-debated bill that would have allowed business owners to legally deny service to same-sex couples by citing their religious beliefs. Outcry from the Arizona business community ultimately contributed to killing the bill; Brewer cited “unintended and negative consequences” as her reason for turning it away.
Many argue the recent string of states overturning gay marriage bans is evidence of its inevitable acceptance as federal law. The cause has gained significant momentum since the Supreme Court struck down a part of the Defense of Marriage Act in June of last year.
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