A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage violates gay and lesbian couples’ equal-protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. U.S. District Court Judge John G. Heyburn II immediately issued a stay — meaning that wedding bells in the Bluegrass State won’t be ringing while the state pursues an appeal — but he did take the opportunity to snark about what he termed the state’s “bewildering” attempts to uphold the ban.
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and his attorneys argued — as others have in similar cases across the country — that given the Supreme Court’s refusal to take up a gay-marriage case in 1972 and the fact that same-sex couples cannot procreate “naturally,” that Kentucky should be allowed to keep its ban on gay marriage. As in many other cases across the country, the court rejected those arguments.
But this is where Beshear and his lawyers get creative or, as Heyburn put it, “disingenuous.” Marriage between heterosexual couples, they argued, contributes “to a stable birth rate which, in turn, ensures the state’s long-term economic stability.”
Heyburn, to put it mildly, didn’t buying that argument:
Even assuming the state has a legitimate interest in promoting procreation, the Court fails to see, and Defendant never explains, how the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has any effect whatsoever on procreation among heterosexual spouses. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage does not change the number of heterosexual couples who choose to get married, the number who choose to have children, or the number of children they have.
… The state’s attempts to connect the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage to its interest in economic stability and in “ensuring humanity’s continued existence” are at best illogical and even bewildering.
Heyburn went on to argue that under that logic, Kentucky could legally deny marriage licenses to couples who could not procreate, or chose not to.
Citing prior case law, Heyburn concluded: “This Court bases its ruling primarily upon the utter lack of logical relation between the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriages and any conceivable legitimate state interest. Any relationship between Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage and its interest in procreation and long-term economic stability ‘is so attenuated as to render the distinction arbitrary or irrational.’”
Heyburn wrote an earlier opinion in February, alerting Kentucky that it would have to immediately recognize same-sex marriages that were performed out-of-state. That ruling is being appealed as well. The Sixth District Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the Kentucky case and cases in other states beginning Aug. 6.
For more on the current state of the battle for same-sex marriage, check out our map of laws, court cases and legislative fights across the country.