LOUISVILLE, KY, February 12, 2014 ( – A federal judge ruled today that the state of Kentucky must recognize same-sex “marriages” conducted in other states, or even other countries. A legal expert warns the ruling could open the door to recognition of polygamous marriages contracted in foreign nations.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II of the Western District of Kentucky ruled that, while the state did not have to conduct same-sex “marriages” itself, it must grant full marital benefits to couples who live in the state but had nuptials conducted elsewhere.


In 2004, 75 percent of the state's electorate approved a marriage protection amendment.

Four gay and lesbian couples brought the lawsuit. One of the couples, Gregory Bourke and Michael Deleon of Louisville, were “married” in Canada. Others received a marriage license in Iowa, Connecticut, and California.

“If the decision is upheld, Kentucky will have to recognize as marriages same-sex relationships that were given marriage certificates in other nations, but there is no reason to limit the ruling to same-sex relationships,” Dr. John Eastman, a law professor who sits on the National Organization for Marriage's board of directors, said. “Presumably, Kentucky will also be forced to recognize as 'marriage' polygamous and other marriages that were valid in the country in which they were performed.”

Judge Heyburn echoed Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion that all marriage protection laws sprang from “animus” against homosexuals. Heyburn wrote that state laws, no matter how representative of the electorate, “treat gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them.”

In his 23-page ruling, he added that “religious beliefs” may be “vital to the fabric of society,” but “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.”

He also indicated that “no one has offered any evidence that recognizing same-sex marriages will harm opposite-sex marriages,” although the marriage rate has plummeted in nations that have redefined marriage.

The decision further erodes the popular move to protect marriage from being redefined from above, a process led by the Obama administration. Attorney General Eric Holder announced this weekend that the federal government would recognize same-sex “marriages” in states that do not legally authorize them, although the administration argued before the Supreme Court that the definition of marriage had traditionally been a state's prerogative.

The Obama administration has actively assisted homosexuals to obtain marriage licenses, giving military recruits from the 34 states that do not recognize gay “marriage” extra leave time to contract a “marriage” in the handful that have redefined marriage.

That makes Judge Heyburn's ruling that the state does not have to perform the ruling a distinction without a difference, observers say.

“In Windsor,” the decision striking down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last June, “the Supreme Court placed great weight on the fact that states have primary authority for determining marriage policy,” Dr. Eastman said. “Yet this federal judge has, contrary to the strong federalism language in Windsor, determined on his own that Kentucky is not allowed to make that policy choice.”

“This drives a stake through the heart” of Windsor, he said.

To counteract the federal government's drive, Congressman Randy Weber, R-TX, introduced the “State Marriage Defense Act,” which would demand that the federal government respect marriage law in the state in which the person lives. The bill was endorsed by NOM President Brian Brown. “Congress needs to explicitly reinforce the sovereign right of the states to make their own determinations regarding marriage, and to have those determinations respected by the federal government-which would include having those determinations protected from coerced modification through dubious readings of the 14th amendment,” he said.

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Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Heyburn's ruling violates another American dictum, the principle of “live-and-let-live.”

“This ruling is another example of the deep betrayal of a judicial system infected with activist judges who are legislating from the bench. If these judges want to change duly enacted laws passed by the people and their representatives, they should resign their life-time appointments to the bench and run for the state legislature or Congress,” Perkins said. “Judge Heyburn is elevating his own ideology over that of three-quarters of Kentucky voters who voted to preserve marriage in their constitution as it has always been defined.”

That decision violates not just the will of the people, but the highest law in the state: its constitution.

“As Heyburn declares that the Commonwealth must recognize gay marriages performed in other states, the Constitution of Kentucky is being undermined,” said Dr. Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “I pray the appeals process will honor the Commonwealth’s constitution and protect her children.”