On July 26, 2013, a same-sex couple married under the laws of Ontario filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the governor, attorney general, secretary of state of Kentucky and two county clerks. The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of Kentucky's laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying and voiding within Kentucky marriages of same-sex couples validly entered into under the laws of other states or countries.
On August 16, 2013, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, adding two more same-sex couples married under the laws of other states as plaintiffs in the suit. The plaintiffs asked the court for both declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, the plaintiffs asked the court to declare that Amendment 223A of the Kentucky Constitution violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and that the Kentucky statutes KRS 402.045(2) and KRS 402.045(1) violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Additionally, the plaintiffs asked the court to enjoin the State from denying same-sex couples the right to marry in Kentucky and denying recognition of marriages validly entered into under the laws of other states and countries.
The plaintiffs sought summary judgment on December 16, 2013, and on February 12, 2014, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn, II, found for the plaintiffs, concluding that Kentucky's refusal to recognize valid same-sex marriages from other states violates the United States Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law, even under the most deferential standard of review. Two weeks later, on February 27, 2014, the Court held that the order would go immediately into effect.
That same day, the defendants filed a motion to stay, which was granted, and appealed to the Sixth Circuit on March 18, 2014.
On July 1, 2014, the Court (Judge John G. Heyburn II) held that that Kentucky laws banning same-sex marriage violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights and did not further any conceivable legitimate government purpose. Love v. Beshear, 2014 WL 2957671 (W.D. Kentucky 2014). The order declared all Kentucky laws prohibiting same-sex marriage were void and unenforceable. In the same order, the Court stayed the decision pending further order in the Sixth Circuit.
On November 6, 2014, the Sixth Circuit ruled on this and other cases from four states. DeBoer v. Snyder (PB-MI-0004
in this Clearinghouse). Obergefell v. Hodges (PB-OH-0003
in this Clearinghouse). Henry v. Hodges (PB-OH-0004
in this Clearinghouse). Tanco v. Haslam (PB-TN-0005
in this Clearinghouse). It was unwilling to find a Constitutional basis to deny states' authority to define marriage. On the Due Process and Equal Protection claims raised in this case, the court found that it was bound by Supreme Court precedent in Baker v. Nelson, 191 N.W.2d 185 (Minn. 1971), which it found not overruled by Windsor nor by "doctrinal developments". It found that the bans were plausibly rational, and neither in violation of the Constitution nor due to illegal animus or discrimination. It also held that "[i]f it is constitutional for a State to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, it is also constitutional for the State to stand by that definition with respect to couples married in other States or countries." (DeBoer v. Snyder Page p. 38). Accordingly, the Sixth Circuit upheld the same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. 772 F.3d 388.
The Supreme Court granted certiorari review of all the 6th Circuit cases on Jan. 16, 2015. Bourke v. Beshear, 135 S. Ct. 1041 (2015). The Court rephrased the questions presented as: 1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license marriage between two people of the same sex? 2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?
On June 26, 2015, the Court reversed, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy. The right to marry is fundamental, the Court held, and it demeans gay and lesbian couples to deprive them of access to marriage. The 14th Amendment therefore does not allow states to ban same-sex marriage. Kennedy was joined without further writing by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor. Each of the four dissenters--Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito--wrote a dissent. Carlyn Williams - 10/16/2013
Megan Dolan - 07/08/2014