By John Sittler
A federal judge in Kentucky ruled Wednesday that the commonwealth must recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state, striking down a constitutional amendment similar to one under consideration in Indiana.
The 2004 amendment to the Kentucky Constitution restricted recognized marriages to those between a man and a woman. U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn said that violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.
"It is clear that Kentucky's laws treat gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them," Heyburn said in his ruling. But the decision did not say Kentucky must allow same-sex marriages to be performed in the state.
The decision is the latest in a series of federal court rulings that raise questions about whether Indiana's proposed amendment could withstand a challenge. Indiana's proposal defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, mirroring existing state law.
House Joint Resolution 3 has passed the Indiana House and is under consideration in the Senate. If it passes as currently written, it would need approval from the General Assembly again in 2015 or 2016 before it could go on the ballot for ratification in 2016.
But some of the amendment's opponents say the proposal would buck national trends - and the recent court rulings.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman and left it up to states to make decisions about the definition of a legal marriage.
But then last month, a federal court ruled that an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. That ruling came one week after a similar ruling was made on a same-sex marriage ban in Utah.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who supports the Indiana amendment, declined through a spokeswoman to comment on the Kentucky decision.
Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said Wednesday that it's "just one more piece of evidence that the attempts to pass this amendment here is just a futile attempt to hold back the tide of history."
Pierce said he did not think Wednesday's ruling would have any effect on Indiana's marriage battle this year, but he hoped this would be the last time the issue was brought before the General Assembly.
"I think they're kind of stuck following through with the monster they've created, but I would not be surprised if, in the next two years, they just have better things to do," he said.
Amendments to HJR 3 will be considered in the Senate as early as Thursday.
John Sittler is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.