Denied Marriage Licenses, Louisville Same-Sex Couples Ask to Join Federal Lawsuit

Earlier this week, plaintiffs’ attorneys were encouraged by U.S. District Judge John Heyburn’s opinion that Kentucky must recognize out-of-state same-sex couples.

They said they believed the opinion undercut the framework for the entirety of the state’s 2004 same-sex marriage ban—that a couple seeking to get married in Kentucky would be able to do just that under Heyburn’s opinion, if he’d had such a circumstance to decide on  in the federal case.

Now they’re asking Heyburn to accept that very opportunity.

Two Louisville couples on Friday filed motions to intervene in the lawsuit, Bourke v. Beshear, asking to be added as plaintiffs alongside the current set of couples who were married out of state. 

Both couples have been denied marriage licenses in the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office because they were the same sex, said Laura Landenwich, one of the attorneys representing them.

The couples are also asking for immediate preliminary and permanent injunctions, requesting that the state immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to them.

They’re basic argumentr: If the state’s ban on recognizing out-of-state same sex marriages violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause, as Heyburn ruled, the state’s ban on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples is a violation, too.

“Our hope is that the judge will allows these plaintiffs to intervene since the fundament issue—which is whether or not there is a violation of equal protection, that fundamental issue will be resolved in one case, in one order,” Landenwich said.

Heyburn’s opinion earlier this week won’t become official until a hearing is held. Attorney General Jack Conway, one of the defendants, may appeal the opinion, but he said in a statement that he wouldn’t comment until after the hearing.

Dawn Elliott, an attorney representing the couples, said they wanted to “strike while the iron was hot”—to get the same-sex marriage issue resolved in its entirety.

One couple is Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza. Landenwich said they’ve been a couple for more than three decades. As an example of why they’d seek to join the lawsuit, Landenwich pointed to a recent situation when Love required heart surgery.

“They had to fill out paperwork in the hospital while he was awaiting surgery to allow his partner to make medical decision in case something went wrong,” she said. “It didn’t have any medical consequences, fortunately, but you can imagine a scenario where it might.”

The other couple seeking to join the lawsuit is Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard and Dominique James, who were arrested last year after sitting in at the county clerk’s office upon being denied a marriage license. They were later fined a penny each.

As Bourke did days ago, Blanchard said same-sex couples are denied financial, medical and other benefits that are available to opposite-sex couples through marriage.

As an example, James said they’d like to adopt a child someday—but same-sex couples face a more cumbersome process.

“We’ve struggled, obviously, not having the financial securities that come along with marriage, not being to file taxes together, not being able to purchase a home in the same way that a heterosexual married couple could do,” Blanchard said on Friday.

Later, he added:  “This is about our rights, our civil rights, that come along with marriage. We feel like Judge Heyburn in his prior ruling is right along those lines as well.”

Conway’s office is reviewing the filing, a spokeswoman said.

Gov. Steve Beshear’s offices did not offer immediate responses to the filing. We’ll update should he respond. 

A recent Bluegrass Poll said that 55 percent of Kentucky voters opposed same-sex marriage.

But several states, including Ohio and Utah, have lawsuits challenging same-sex marriage bans in the appeals process. A federal judge ruled Thursday that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, as well.

Joseph Lord

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

@joseph_Lord

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