Group files lawsuit challenging Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage

jbrammer@herald-leader.comSeptember 12, 2013 

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FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Equality Federation has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state's 2004 constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage.

The lawsuit, filed in Franklin Circuit Court, names Gov. Steve Beshear, Attorney General Jack Conway and the Fayette County clerk's office as defendants.

The group said in a news release that its lawsuit is "the latest attempt to achieve equal rights and protections for families across the commonwealth whose very existence has been banned by the forces of religious zealotry and hatred."

The lawsuit claims that the 2004 amendment violates multiple sections of the Kentucky Constitution that guarantee citizens equal protection under the law.

"In 2004, social conservatives, who normally try to hide behind the Constitution, decided that it wasn't good enough for them anymore," Kentucky Equality Federation president Jordan Palmer said. "They decided to rewrite a document which guarantees freedom and to pervert it to fit their own jaded hatred of gay and lesbian couples. This was done despite the fact that it negated part of the Bill of Rights."

About 75 percent of Kentucky voters approved the amendment, which makes it unconstitutional for the state to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions.

The text of the amendment states: "Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."

The Kentucky Equality Federation advocates on behalf of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Martin Cothran, with The Family Foundation in Lexington, opposes the lawsuit.

"We believe that we should decide these issues through the constitutional amendment process," he said. "That is what we did when the Marriage Amendment was passed.

"Instead of amending the Constitution, the Kentucky Equality Foundation and other groups want to rewrite the Constitution through liberal judges."

The lawsuit has been assigned to Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate.

Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian said the governor's office is reviewing it.

Allison Martin, communications director for Attorney General Conway, said, "It is the policy of our office not to comment on pending litigation."

Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins said he had not yet seen the lawsuit.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act. That ruling found that same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits, but left open the question of how the federal government would actually administer those benefits.

The decision was limited to the provision that denied legally married gay couples federal benefits such as estate tax exemptions and Social Security payments. The section of the act permitting states to define marriage to exclude same-sex couples remains in effect. Thirty-six states have such a ban.

The Kentucky National Guard recently said it will follow a Pentagon order to allow all active-duty military personnel to apply for same-sex spousal benefits.

The U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service said last month they will recognize all legally married same-sex couples for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the state where they live recognizes the marriage.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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