Judge: Commonwealth to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages


by Brooke Hasch


Posted on February 28, 2014 at 7:23 AM

Updated Friday, Feb 28 at 8:58 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A federal judge ruled Thursday the Commonwealth of Kentucky will recognize same-sex marriages performed outside of the state and in other countries, but it may not last long.

Attorney General Jack Conway wants a 90-day delay. According to a two-page filing Thursday morning, the delay is sought to give Conway time to decide whether to appeal District Court Judge John Heyburn's Feb. 12 "unconstitutional" ruling. It would also give the state an opportunity to prepare to implement the order.

"I received Judge Heyburn's final order and am in the process of reviewing it.  I have 30 days to determine whether or not to file an appeal in this case, which is why I asked Judge Heyburn for a stay of his order this morning. I will be determining promptly, in consultation with Gov. Beshear, whether or not to file an appeal in this case," Conway said.

"We may have a limited window, but for now, today, we have a victory," Laura Landenwich said.

Landenwich represents four same-sex couples who challenged the state to recognize their out of state marriages. Thursday's ruling came two weeks after Heyburn ruled the state's ban on gay marriages was unconstitutional, but his ruling only effects one of the two groups filing this lawsuit.

"As it stands, those out of state marriages are valid now and the Commonwealth is required to recognize them," Landenwich said.

Couples wanting to marry in Kentucky still can't get a license and said they want the judge to rule on that as well.

"The issues are the same, the deprivation, the harm that these couples suffer is all the same, so from a legal perspective, there's not much difference between the couples in KY wanting the state to issue a license versus the couples in Kentucky wanting to recognize a license," Landenwich said.

It's a recognition some in the religious community oppose.

"I think we see religious freedom infringed on again and again and this ruling limits people who have convictions about this issue to take a stand against it," Bob Russell, a retired pastor of Southeast Christian Church said.

The constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was approved by Kentucky voters in 2004.

"I think the people of Kentucky have spoken by their vote and I hate to see the government step in and just override the voice of the people," Russell said.

Earlier this month, Heyburn concluded the ban on gay marriage, which has been in place since 2004, treated "gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them."