February 28, 2014 at 6:59 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Judge orders Kentucky to recognize married gay couples
Vicco, Kentucky, employment non-discrimination, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image by Seth Ilys via Wikimedia Commons)

A federal judge has ordered Kentucky to begin recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages in the aftermath of his earlier ruling  against the state’s ban on gay unions.

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn issued the two-page order on Thursday, saying laws prohibiting recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages in Kentucky “violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and they are void and unenforceable.”

Heyburn was confirmed to the federal bench by the Senate in 1992 after being recommended by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and nominated by President George H.W. Bush. On Feb. 12, he ruled against Kentucky’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, approved by Kentucky voters in 2004, but only with respect to recognition of out-of-state marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

Earlier in the day, Attorney General Jack Conway filed a  request with the judge asking for a 90-day stay to determine if an appeal will be made or what action the state must otherwise take. The judge has not yet issued a response to the request. [UPDATE: On Friday, Heyburn issued a 21-day stay in his order, allowing Kentucky to wait to recognize until March 20].

In a statement provided to the Washington Blade, Conway said he and Gov. Steve Beshear are reviewing whether to appeal the case to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I received Judge Heyburn’s final order and am in the process of reviewing it,” Conway said. “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.”

The lawsuit, Bourke v. Beshear, was filed on behalf of four gay and lesbian couples that legally married outside Kentucky and sought seeking recognition of the union in their state.

The judge has now also allowed two unmarried couples to intervene in the case: Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysuna as well as Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James. They’re arguing that they should be allowed to marry in Kentucky, but the judge has not yet ruled on that issue.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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