U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II, ruling in a lawsuit brought by four same-sex couples, threw out a provision of Kentucky's 2004 constitutional amendment restricting recognition of out-of-state marriages to those between one man and one woman. He found the restriction violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.
Heyburn said religious beliefs "are vital to the fabric of society" but "assigning a religious or traditional rationale for a law does not make it constitutional when that law discriminates against a class of people without other reasons."
Heyburn -- nominated to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 -- said "Kentucky's laws treat gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them."
He based his ruling on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act, as well as other Supreme Court rulings during the past 40 years prohibiting state bans on interracial marriages.
Family Foundation of Kentucky analyst Martin Cochran said in a statement Heyburn's decision "nullifies the right of Kentucky to determine policies regarding marriage."
Family Foundation of Kentucky argued official recognition of same-sex marriage will harm procreation, but Heyburn said procreation is not mandatory in traditional opposite-sex marriage and noted no one in the case provided evidence "that recognizing same-sex marriages will harm opposite-sex marriages."