LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A huge ruling for same sex couples in Kentucky who are already married or want to get married came Wednesday as a federal judge struck down the Commonwealth's ban on honoring same sex marriages performed in other states where it's legal.
The question before the court: Is Kentucky's ban on recognizing gay marriage from other states constitutional? U.S. District Judge John Heyburn said no.
"We are just as married as anybody else," said Louisville realtor Mark England. England and his partner married in New York in 2012. Because it wasn't recognized in the Commonwealth, the couple didn't have property or healthcare rights. Wednesday everything changed.
"Thanks to Judge Heyburn and his very fair ruling we get to be married in Kentucky," said England.
Attorney Bryan Gatewood said of the news, "It's very significant and as an attorney who practices in the area of estate planning for gay and lesbian couples, (a day ago) I had information I would give to gay and lesbians who were considering their estate planning, now that information is outdated."
The judge not only found the Bluegrass ban unconstitutional, he wrote it treated gay and lesbians differently in a way that demeans them.
Martin Cothran of The Family Foundation disagrees. He said the judge reversing the decision of Kentucky voters in 2004 is an example of social policy through the courts rather than a more Democratic system of government. Cothran said, "Our marriage policy in Kentucky will be dictated from places like Boston and San Francisco rather than the people in this state."
Cothran maintains the equal protection argument will open the door for other unions, "If a state like Utah decided to legalize polygamy we would have to recognize it here in Kentucky," he said.
Mitchell Buckley and Marcel Robinson said of their initial reaction to the decision, "Excitement and very much joy." The married couple hopes the ruling makes the journey easier for other couples than the financial and emotional toll they dealt with. Buckley said, "We've been together 33 years and we were really saddened that we had to leave the state to get married and then come back home to a state we were born and grew up in and we weren't recognized here."
The judge will set a date for a hearing. At that time he will determine when the ruling goes into effect.