Same-sex marriage plaintiffs confident ahead of Supreme Court hearing this month

04/13/2015 12:02 AM

Plaintiffs in what will be a landmark decision on same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court are optimistic that the high court will overturn laws barring the unions throughout the country later this year.

Six couples are fighting Kentucky’s constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, joining similar legal battles in Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee before the Supreme Court April 28. The high court took up the case after the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal judge’s ruling against same-sex marriage bans in November.

The Fairness Campaign hosted a “bon voyage” benefit party for the Kentucky plaintiffs at Play Louisville on Sunday, with a suggested $10 donation to help cover their travel expenses.

One Louisville couple involved in the case, Greg Bourke and Michael De Leon, will bring their adopted 17-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter to Washington, D.C., for the court hearings later this month.

“They know it’s a big deal,” De Leon said at the benefit Sunday, “and they’re also excited because they’ll be off school for a couple days.”

Attorneys for Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration have argued against same-sex marriage because homosexual couples cannot have children. Bourke said the state’s points in the case make Kentucky look like “a laughing stock.”

“There are people procreating who can’t take care of the children for one reason or another and there’s groups of people like us who would welcome children into their homes, so he’s just missing the whole point of same-sex marriage with a couple who would be willing to bring in some of these children and raise them as their own,” said De Leon, who married Bourke 11 years ago in Ontario, Canada, and recently celebrated their 33rd anniversary.

State attorneys have also argued that Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage isn’t discriminatory because it applies to homosexuals and heterosexuals alike.

But Timothy Love, another plaintiff in the case, said heterosexual married couples have benefits homosexual couples can’t obtain. He and his partner, Larry Ysunza, have been together for nearly 35 years and marriage has been something the Louisville couple has “dreamed of but never thought possible.”

“We just want to make it official so we can take care of one another,” Love said. “We’re not asking to spend our lives together. We’ve already spent our lives together without protections that other people have taken for granted, and as we age and get older, we’ve had some incidents where we really need that extra protection.”

Ysunza said the lack of benefits granted to married couples has been “very frustrating.”

“We pay the same taxes; we have the same responsibilities as anyone else,” Ysunza said.

The case has galvanized outside support on both sides. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell joined five other Republican senators and 51 representatives in a brief filed with the high court Thursday, urging justices to uphold states’ rights in setting marriage laws, according to a report by The Dallas Morning News.

Still, plaintiffs in the case remain hopeful the court that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 will ultimately legalize same-sex marriage.Thirty-seven states recognize same-sex marriage, either through law or legal challenges.

Kim Franklin, who married her partner Tammy Boyd in Connecticut in 2010, can’t foresee losing the case based on past Supreme Court decisions. She counts herself “cautiously optimistic” the court will overturn Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban.

“I don’t think we could prepare ourselves completely for (losing) just because it would seem to be so unusual and just wrong,” she said.

Bourke said “the wave” of same-sex marriage has “swept over the country” since the high court ruled on DOMA, which allowed states to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

“The Supreme Court would be foolish to make any kind of ruling at this point that would disrupt that because really if they did that, it would create a chaotic situation for many of the states where same-sex marriage is already recognized and respected,” he said.


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