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State of Kentucky
All in this Region

Current Status


HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

  • Kentucky is home of the legal case Jones v. Hallahan (1973), in which the court ruled against the two lesbian plaintiffs. The plaintiffs relied on constitutional claims: a fundamental right to marry (as ruled by U.S. Supreme Court, but applied only to opposite-sex marriages), the right of association, and the right to free exercise of religion (both under the First Amendment), and the contention that the refusal of a marriage license subjected them to cruel and unusual punishment (as forbidden by the Eighth Amendment).
  • 7 November 2014, couples from the Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee marriage cases all sought SCOTUS review. See Bourke v. Beshear.
  • Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions, per Constitutional Amendment 1, as of 2004.
  • On 12 February 2014 U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that Kentucky's ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. His ruling was stayed pending appeal. Update: Judge Heyburn passed away on 29 April 2015. Judge John G. Heyburn II, who struck down the Kentucky marriage ban, has died - By Andrew Wolfson, The Courier-Journal
  • On 6 November 2014, the 6th Circuit ruled reversing the lower court's ruling and upholding the state ban on marriage equality.
  • 16 January 2015, the 6th Circuit Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee marriage cases all were accepted by SCOTUS for review! Oral argument took place on 28 April 2015, with a ruling issued on 26 June 2015. See Bourke v. Beshear.
  • State ban nullified by U.S. Supreme Court ruling on 26 June 2015. 26 June 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States issued their decision in Obergefell, the marriage case, ruling on the side of love and marriage! Majority opinion by Justice Kennedy, 5-4. Per @SCOTUSblog, the Court's opinion relies on the dual rationales of fundamental rights AND equal protection and seems to go out of its way not to state a standard of scrutiny. "...the majority opinion rejects the claim that marriage is about procreation, even while saying that protecting children of same-sex couples supports the Court's ruling: "This is not to say that the right to marry is less meaningful for those who do not or cannot have children. An ability, desire, or promise to procreate is not and has not been a prerequisite for a valid marriage in any State."

Legislation - Pending

None.

Legislation - Enacted

None.

Lawsuits - Pending

Miller v. Davis

Case #: 15-44-DLB
Date Filed: 2 July 2015 
Court Level: Federal District Court
Date of Appeal:

Description:

  • 2 July 2015, from the ACLU-KY: "The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky today filed a lawsuit on behalf of four Rowan County couples, two same-gender couples and two opposite-gender couples, denied marriage licenses by County Clerk Kim Davis. Since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a sweeping and historic decision that affords gay and lesbian couples the legal right to marry, Ms. Davis has refused to provide marriage licenses to any couple applying for one in Rowan County citing 'religious concerns.'”
  • 2 July 2015, the plaintiffs also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction.
  • 2 July 2015, UPDATE 1: The case was originally assigned to Senior Judge Henry R. Wilhoit, Jr. In an order signed this morning, Judge Wilhoit recused himself; he gave no reason for the recusal. The case has been reassigned to David L. Bunning.
    UPDATE 2: A hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction is scheduled for Monday, 13 July 2015 at 12:00 p.m. in Ashland, KY before Judge Bunning.
  • 13 July 2015, the hearing took place - the unofficial word on the street is that the judge won't rule today. Minutes from the hearing today.
  • 13 July 2015, ACLU press release regarding today's preliminary injunction hearing.
  • 15 July 2015, the conclusion of the evidentiary portion of the preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for Monday, July 20 at 10:00am ET.
  • 20 July 2015, the minutes were filed from the hearing today.
  • 29 July 2015, defendant Rowan County filed their Answer to Complaint.
  • 30 July 2015, defendant Rowan County filed their Response to plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction, and defendant Kim Davis filed her Opposition to Motion for Preliminary Injunction (with 21 attachments). Worth noting that transcripts for both of this month's hearings are included in the attachments.
Hardee v. Beshear

Case #: 14-CI-00322
Date Filed: 20 March 2014 
Court Level: State Trial Court
Date of Appeal:

Description:

  • 20 March 2014, this case in Franklin Circuit Court was brought by two pairs of same-sex partners from Lexington: Lindsey Bain and his partner Daniel Rogers, and David Hardee and Marshall Robertson.
  • Both couples had been denied marriage licenses by county clerks in Kentucky. They filed separate lawsuits in Franklin Circuit — later consolidated — that contended that provisions in the Kentucky Constitution and statutes prohibiting them to marry solely because of their sexual orientation violate rights guaranteed them under the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
  • 10 April 2014, this case was consolidated with Kentucky Equality Federation v. Beshear (see below).
  • 16 April 2015, in a 33 page ruling Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate found that Kentucky law banning same-sex marriages violates rights guaranteed by the Constitution. However, Judge Wingate stayed his order pending SCOTUS ruling on the same issues, which will apply to all states. Kentucky judge rules against marriage ban - By Tom Loftus, The Courier-Journal
Kentucky Equality Federation v. Beshear

Case #: 13-CI-01074
Date Filed: 10 September 2013
Date of Appeal:

Description:

  • Private lawyers filed a lawsuit in state court on behalf of the Kentucky Equality Federation against the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The lawsuit seeks to achieve equal rights and protections for same-sex couples and their families in Kentucky, arguing that the 2004 amendment to the Kentucky Constitution violates the Constitution.
  • 21 February 2014, motion to hold in abeyance denied.
  • 10 April 2014, consolidated with Hardee v. Beshear - Kentucky Equality Federation v. Beshear is the lead in the consolidated case.
  • Briefing should be completed by August 2014.

Lawsuits - Resolved

Bourke v. Beshear

(Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza of Timothy Love, et al. v. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear were added as plaintiffs to the case formerly known as Gregory Bourke & Michael De Leon, et al. v. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear - the case as a whole is known as Bourke v. Beshear.)

Case #: 14-574 (SCOTUS); 3:13-cv-00750 (Federal District Court)
Date Filed: 26 July 2013
Court Level: SCOTUS
Date of Ruling: 26 June 2015

Description:

  • On 26 July 2013, 4 same-gender couples and their children filed a federal lawsuit challenging KY’s ban on recognizing same-sex couples married elsewhere - the case was named Gregory Bourke & Michael De Leon, et al. v. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.
  • 1 October 2013, KY Attorney General Clay Barkley asked the court to dismiss the case, claiming that the plaintiffs have no standing to bring this lawsuit.
  • 12 February 2014, the court struck down that specific ban, and rejected arguments about “responsible” procreation, tradition, and harm allegedly caused by same-sex marriages to mixed-gender marriages.
  • 14 February 2014, in Timothy Love & Lawrence Ysunza, et al., v. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, et al., Shannon Fauver filed a federal “intervening complaint” for 2 gay male couples challenging the KY 2004 constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage, and asking to combine their complaint with Gregory Bourke & Michael De Leon, et al. v. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, in which a federal judge ruled that the KY ban on recognizing same-gender couples married elsewhere is unconstitutional.
  • 27 February 2014, a judge ordered KY to immediately start recognizing same-sex marriage licenses issued outside KY; whether KY must also issue such licenses is being decided separately.
  • 28 February 2014, the court denied KY’s request for a 90-day stay of the order requiring KY to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, and issued a 21-day stay instead. The recently added plaintiffs (Timothy Love and Laurence Ysunza) seeking marriage within KY had requested an injunction allowing marriages immediately, but the court also denied that request.
  • 4 March 2014, KY Attorney General Jack Conway decided not to appeal the federal court order that KY must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, which would have left as the only remaining issue the question of whether KY must issue marriage licenses to its own residents, but KY Governor Steve Beshear said he will hire outside lawyers to appeal that ruling.
  • 14 March 2014, KY Governor Steve Beshear asked the court to delay the 20 March 2014 effective date when KY must start recognizing marriages from other states.
  • 20 March 2014, the court stayed enforcement of its final order (requiring KY to recognize marriages performed elsewhere) pending the outcome from the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
  • 28 March 2014, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals set the briefing schedule: KY principal brief (7 May 2014), plaintiffs’ principal brief appendix (9 June 2014), Amicus Briefs (16 June 2014), KY reply brief (26 June 2014).
  • Oral argument scheduled for 6 August 2014, 1:00pm.
  • 6 August 2014, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument. Access audio of argument.
  • 6 November 2014, the 6th Circuit ruled reversing the lower court's ruling and upholding the state ban on marriage equality.
  • 7 November 2014, Analysis: Paths to same-sex marriage review - By Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog
  • 7 November 2014, couples from the Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee marriage cases all will be seeking SCOTUS review.
  • 17 November 2014, the Kentucky plaintiffs filed their Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the Supreme Court, seeking reversal of 6th Circuit decision. All four 6th Circuit states have now filed with SCOTUS!
  • 9 December 2014, the Kentucky Governor filed his Response in Support of Granting Cert.
  • 9 December 2014, Kentucky supports same-sex marriage review - By Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog
  • 22 December 2014, the plaintiffs filed their Reply filed with SCOTUS. Note the addition of new attorneys from ACLU and Standford's Jeffrey L. Fisher
  • 23 December 2014, all of the the 6th Circuit marriage cases - Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee - are scheduled for the 9 January 2014 Supreme Court Conference. Also on the list for this conference (previously reported) is the petition for cert before judgment in the Louisiana case. Kentucky: http://1.usa.gov/1rfijSt
  • 9 January 2015, per Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog, the Court did not grant cert to (take for review) any new cases today. (See the 2nd through 5th cases listed in this article.) The orders that were issued today were routine. New orders will be released on Monday, 12 January 2015.
  • 12 January 2015, SCOTUS issued orders denying cert to Louisiana's Robicheaux before the 5th Circuit rules, but took no action on the cases from the 6th Circuit. Orders list. UPDATE: The Court has officially listed all four 6th Circuit marriage cases for consideration at their conference on Friday, 16 January 2015.
  • 16 January 2015, SCOTUS has spoken! All four 6th Circuit marriage cases are granted including this one. Briefing will be completed April 17, which means oral argument most likely the last week in April.
  • You can follow the marriage cases at SCOTUS on our National page under LAWSUITS-PENDING.
  • 27 February 2015, plaintiffs' brief submitted to SCOTUS.
  • 17 March 2015, Petitioners (plaintiffs) in the Supreme Court marriage cases made a formal request for divided argument time.
  • 27 March 2015, Kentucky's brief submitted to SCOTUS.
  • 28 April 2015, transcript and audio from SCOTUS arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges Question 2
  • 28 April 2015, Transcript and audio from SCOTUS arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges Question 1
  • 26 June 2015, WE WON! LOVE WON! Majority opinion by Justice Kennedy, 6-3. Per @SCOTUSblog, the Court's opinion relies on the dual rationales of fundamental rights AND equal protection and seems to go out of its way not to state a standard of scrutiny.  "...the majority opinion rejects the claim that marriage is about procreation, even while saying that protecting children of same-sex couples supports the Court's ruling: "This is not to say that the right to marry is less meaningful for those who do not or cannot have children. An ability, desire, or promise to procreate is not and has not been a prerequisite for a valid marriage in any State." READ THE RULING
  • 26 June 2015, live as of 2:00pm ET on June 26: Marriage Equality Facts
  • 28 July 2015, SCOTUS issued Judgment in the 6th Circuit cases (Obergefell).
    "THESE CAUSES came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the above court and were argued by counsel.
    "ON CONSIDERATION WHEREOF, it is ordered and adjudged by Court that the judgment of the above court are reversed with costs."
  • Details of this case at SCOTUS are posted as Obergefell on our National page under LAWSUITS-RESOLVED.
Love v. Beshear

Case #: 14-5818 (6th Circuit Court of Appeals),3:13-cv-00750 (District Court)
Date Filed: 14 February 2014 
Court Level: Federal District Court (6th)
Date of Appeal: July 2014
Date of SCOTUS Ruling (see above): 26 June 2015

Description:

  • Two same-sex couples moved to intervene in what wasBourke v. Beshear case (after the judge granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in that case, which raised only recognition claims).
  • That motion was granted and the judge renamed the case.
  • 2 February 2014, a motion for preliminary injunction was denied; 19 March 2014, answer filed.
  • 24 March 2014, the Attorney General was ordered dismissed as a defendant.
  • 18 April 2014, Plaintiffs-Intervenors filed motions for summary judgment and immediate injunctive relief. Defendant filed his response to plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on 19 May 2014; replies were filed 28 May 2014.
  • 19 May 2014 the governor filed his opposition to the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. He quoted the "continuation of the human race and that only man-woman couples can naturally procreate" argument.
  • 28 May 2014, the plaintiffs filed their reply in support of Summary Judgment in which they blasted the "procreation" argument the governor made.
  • 1 July 2014, Federal District Court Judge G. Heyburn II ruled that Kentucky’s ban on performing same-sex marriages is unconstitutional – in his opinion and order the judge stayed his ruling.
  • Case appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • 16 July 2014, briefing schedule set.
  • 6 November 2014, the 6th Circuit ruled reversing the lower court's ruling and upholding the state ban on marriage equality.
  • This case was consolidated with Bourke v. Beshear immediately above. Read the consolidated case.
Romero v. Romero

Case #: 3CI-503351
Date Filed: 25 October 2013
Date of Ruling: 12 January 2015

Description:

  • This is the state’s first divorce case involving a same-sex couple who were married in another state where same-sex marriages are legal (Massachusetts), and want to end their marriage in Kentucky.
  • 6 November 2013, Response and Counter-Petition filed.
  • April 2014 the Romeros entered into a property settlement and a motion for Decree of Dissolution was filed on 14 April 2014.
  • The couple’s lawyer has announced she plans to appeal if divorce petition is dismissed.
  • 12 January 2015, Judge Joseph O'Reilly granted the divorce. Gay divorce granted by family court judge - By Andrew Wolfson, The Courier-Journal
Kentucky v. Bobbie Jo Clary

Case #: 11-CR-3329
Date Filed: 2011
Ruling Date: 23 September 2013

Description:

  • On 29 October 2011, George Murphy died at his home in the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky. Prosecutors believe Bobbi Jo Clary, the defendant, committed murder by striking him with a hammer. Clary asserts that she acted in self-defense, that Murphy had been attacking her and had raped her.
  • Prosecutors also say that Clary's civil union partner, Geneva Case, observed evidence in the death and heard Clary admit to murder, and they sought to compel Clary to testify against Case.
  • Clary sought to invoke “marital privilege” by reason of her Vermont Civil Union to Case, and Case sought to quash the subpoena issued against her demanding she testify against Clary.
  • The judge ruled that it was abundantly clear that Kentucky does not recognize same-sex marriages within the state or from other states, and that Case was mandated to testify against Clary.
  • Follow-up: In January 2014, after pleading guilty to murder, robbery and tampering with physical evidence, Clary was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Ballot Initiatives - Pending

None.

Ballot Initiatives - Passed

None.

Polls

  • 12 March 2015, "Bucking the national trend, a majority of Kentuckians continues to oppose same-sex marriage, according to the latest Bluegrass Poll. Fifty-seven percent of registered voters told pollsters they opposed allowing gays and lesbians to marry in Kentucky, up slightly from two Bluegrass Polls last year. Thirty-three percent favored it, down slightly from last year, and 10 percent were not sure." News Source
  • 13 August 2014, Public Policy Polling released the results of a poll that showed  61% of voters think same-sex marriage should not be allowed. When asked about broader opinions on marriage equality, 28% are in favor of marriage and another 28% of voters support civil unions, but 41% of voters think there should be no legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships. Poll Details 
  • 29 July 2014, results from a Bluegrass Poll showed that 50% of registered voters in Kentucky opposed same-sex marriage, while 37% favored it and 12% remained unsure. That was a drop from the 55% who said they opposed gay marriage in February and a sharp decline from the 72% that voted in favor of a ban in 2004 — when the state constitution was amended to define marriage as between a man and a woman. News Source
  • Results of a Herald-Leader/WKYT Bluegrass Poll released on 7 February 2014, found that 55 percent of registered voters oppose same-sex marriage, compared with 35 percent who support allowing gays and lesbians to marry in Kentucky. Ten percent weren't sure. Poll Details