Greg Bourke and Michael De Leon met in 1982 while they were students at the University of Kentucky.
They were married 22 years later—in Canada. The men live in Louisville, however, and their marriage isn’t recognized in Kentucky because of a statewide ban on same-sex marriage.
On Friday, Bourke and De Leon filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
“People always talk about how things get to Kentucky 20 years later than they do the rest of the country,” Bourke told WFPL in an interview. “Our feeling is we don’t want to wait another 20 years. My partner and I have been together for 31 years and we don’t want to wait until our 50th anniversary until the state of Kentucky recognizes our marriage.”
The lawsuit will likely take years before its resolved through the court system—and may go as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, said Dawn Elliott, an attorney representing the couple.
In fact, Elliott expects “it will go all the way to the top.”
“I’m sure we’re going to have some challenges ahead of us, and I say that because of the history of our state—I mean, let’s be frank here, they didn’t ratify the abolition of slavery until 1976,” she said.
The lawsuit following the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and a same-sex marriage ban in California known as Proposition 8. The DOMA ruling relied upon the Fourteen Amendment of the U.S. Constitution—and the Equal Protection Clause is the basis for Bourke and De Leon’s lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Bourke, De Leon and their two children. Gov. Steve Beshear, Attorney General Jack Conway and Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw are named as the defendants. Representatives from the attorney general’s office and the governor’s office said they haven’t seen the suit yet, but will review it when it arrives. Conway’s office added that they typically don’t comment on pending litigation.
The full lawsuit is posted at the bottom of this story.
Here’s my interview today with Bourke:
And here’s more of what he had to say.
On the lawsuit:
“It’s something that I think that we thought about for quite a few years. We’ve been together 31 years and we’ve been legally married the last nine. But after the Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA and Prop 8, we felt like this was a good time to push forward in the state of Kentucky. You know, so many other states now are welcoming same-sex marriage and we just felt like this would be a good time for the state of Kentucky to consider doing the same thing.”
On how the ban affects their family:
“We have two children—they’re adopted. The way we had to work that arrangement was, my husband is the legal adopted parent of the two children. And because we’re not legally married I could not be a second adoptive parent, so I’ve had to become a legal guardian and go through extensive legal action to become a legal guardian for our two children that refer to both of us as dad and we’ve been their parents for their whole lives. So it’s caused some problems with our children and our family, just the whole legal aspects of it.
“Also, we have issues related to taxes—both federal taxes and Kentucky taxes. Because we’re not married, we’re not permitted to be married, we pay more tax. I think we’re penalized in some respects in that realm. I am forced to file as single; my partner files as head of household because he’s the adoptive parent for our two children. So it makes our taxes very complicated, it makes our lives very complicated, because the state does not recognize us as a married couple.”
On how he met De Leon:
“My husband and I met each other in 1982. We were both attending the University of Kentucky. As it turned out, we were living three doors down from each other when we met. Shortly there after, I suppose you would say we fell in love and moved in together. And we’ve been together the last 31 years in a committed long-term relationship. In March of 2004, we decided to go to Canada and get legally married. So we’ve been legally married since 2004. We have our two adoptive children—our daughter Isabella was adopted at birth in 1999. Our son is almost 16 now.
On being prepared for the lawsuit and the amount of time it may take in the court system:
“I think we are. As I’ve said, my partner and I have been together a very long time. We have no intention of splitting. So, if it takes a while to play out through the courts, certainly we’re ready for that possibility. We would prefer that it does not take very long. We’re hoping that the momentum that we see across the country now for accepting same-sex marriages will spread to the state of Kentucky and, actually, we’re hopeful that this will play out very quickly.”
More thoughts on Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban:
“If we’re legally married in any state, you know, we should be considered legally married in Kentucky or any state that does not necessarily recognize same-sex marriage. I mean, if we moved to Connecticut, it would be automatic. If we moved to Canada, where we got married, it would be automatic. So it should be the same way in Kentucky.
“I just can’t imagine that a straight couple that got married in, say, Connecticut and they moved to Kentucky and someone told them, you know, we don’t recognize marriages that were done in the state of Connecticut. How strange and bizarre would that be? Wouldn’t people think that that’s just a horrible case of discrimination. Well that’s exactly the kind of situation that people are facing right now.”
On his past campaigning against the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay Scout leaders:
“I’ve was personally a victim of discrimination by the Boy Scouts of America and its membership policy. I was forced to resign when the Boy Scouts learned that I was gay, and it was unacceptable to them. By the same token, the Commonwealth of Kentucky is discriminating against my partner and me because we are legally married—we were legally married in Canada nine years ago—but the Commonwealth of Kentucky still refuses to recognize that marriage as legal. And, as a result, we are suffering, I think, materially from that.”
And here’s the lawsuit: