Supreme Court rules gay marriage legal in all 50 states, striking down Kentucky's ban

06/26/2015 10:25 AM

UPDATED WITH REACTIONS: In a landmark ruling the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5 to 4 that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states striking down bans in more than a dozen states, including Kentucky.

The court ruled on the Obergefell v. Hodges case, which includes Kentucky’s “Freedom to Marry” lawsuit, Bourke v. Beshear with liberal leaning justices in favor of same-sex marriages and conservative justices dissenting.

Read the full 103 page ruling here.

Six couples from Kentucky joined couples with legal battles in Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee before the Supreme Court. 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.

Kentucky’s legislature passed a same-sex marriage ban by referendum in 2004, which amended the state constitution; Friday’s ruling by the high court will overturn that amendment.

The Jefferson County Clerk’s office told Pure Politics that as of 11:30 am no same-sex couples have arrived seeking a marriage license, but if they did the clerk’s office would not be able to issue one until hearing what to do from Frankfort. The clerk’s office is still awaiting word from the governor’s office on how to handle the change in the law.

The county clerks office said they expect that some forms and documents will need to be changed to accommodate same-sex couples. Currently forms use gender specific language such as man and woman and bride and groom.

Just before noon Gov. Steve Beshear said effective today the state will recognize same-sex marriages performed both in and outside of Kentucky.

“The fractured laws across the country concerning same-sex marriage had created an unsustainable and unbalanced legal environment, wherein citizens were treated differently depending on the state in which they resided,” Beshear said in a statement. “That situation was unfair, no matter which side of the debate you may support.

“Kentuckians, and indeed all Americans, deserved a final determination of what the law in this country would be, and that is the reason we pursued an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Today’s opinion finally provides that clarity.”

Beshear continued saying that “all Cabinets of the executive branch have been directed to immediately alter any policies necessary to implement the decision from the Supreme Court. “

“Effective today, Kentucky will recognize as valid all same-sex marriages performed in other states and in Kentucky,” Beshear said. “I have instructed the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives to provide revised marriage license forms to our county clerks for immediate use, beginning today. We will report additional expected policy changes in the coming days.”

By the afternoon same-sex couples had received marriage licenses in Jefferson and Fayette County.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said that she informed Gov. Beshear that her office “stands ready to help in any way to follow the Court’s ruling. We will continue to assist our clerks and fellow state officials in the days moving forward.”

Attorney General Jack Conway, who chose not to challenge a lower courts ruling that Kentucky’s 2004 constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause, said Friday that “it is time to move forward.”

“Today, the United States Supreme Court issued the final word on this issue. The ruling does not tell a minister or congregation what they must do, but it does make clear that the government cannot pick and choose when it comes to issuing marriage licenses and the benefits they confer,” Conway said in a statement. “It is time to move forward because the good-paying jobs are going to states that are inclusive.

“As Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I did my duty and defended Kentucky’s constitutional amendment. When Judge Heyburn ruled the amendment was unconstitutional, I agreed with his legal analysis and used the discretion given to me by statute to inform Gov. Beshear and the citizens of the Commonwealth that I would not waste the scarce resources of this office pursuing a costly appeal that would not be successful.

As the Court profoundly stated in its opinion regarding the plaintiffs, ‘They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right., “ Conway concluded.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin, said he strongly disagrees with the ruling of the court.

“When the definition of marriage was put on the ballot 10 years ago, 74% of Kentuckians made it clear that they supported traditional marriage,” Bevin said. “Since that time, however, activist judges have chosen to ignore the will of the people, and to ignore the Constitutional principle of state’s rights.”

“When Kentucky’s marriage law was under attack by the courts, our own Attorney General, Jack Conway, abandoned his oath of office, and chose not to defend it,” he continued in a statement. “Jack Conway’s failure to do his job and defend our laws in Kentucky disqualifies him from being elected to the office of Governor. How can voters trust him not to break his oath again?”

Republican candidate for attorney general state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, said in a statement that he disagreed with the ruling and was “disappointed that the Supreme Court would create a new definition of family, rejecting what the citizens of this commonwealth wrote into our Constitution.”

“I am glad that the opinion noted that this is a “changed” understanding of marriage, that religious institutions have a right to advocate for the traditional definition of marriage, and I am glad that Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the beliefs of Kentuckians who disagree with the Court,” Westerfield said. “I look forward to Governor Beshear working to balance the order of the Court with the provisions of the RFRA.

“Unlike Attorney General Jack Conway, who failed in his responsibility to fight for the laws of this commonwealth, as Attorney General I will act to uphold the law even as it runs counter to my personal beliefs.”

Democratic candidate for Attorney General Andy Beshear, the son of Gov. Steve Beshear, said in a statement that he would uphold the law if elected as Attorney General.

“The Supreme Court has handed down their ruling on this issue, providing Kentuckians and Americans with a final answer,” Beshear said. “The job of the next Attorney General is to uphold the law and that is what I will do.”

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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