Why 6 federal judges struck down state gay marriage bans, in their own words

February 27

(UPDATE 2/27 12:02 p.m.: Kentucky’s attorney general is asking a judge to delay an order forcing the state to recognize same-sex marriages there. Quoted below is the judge’s ruling from earlier this month that the state’s ban is unconstitutional.)

A federal judge in Texas on Wednesday ruled a ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, making him the sixth federal judge in a row to rule marriage discrimination unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court said the federal government must recognize existing legal same-sex marriages in a June ruling.

Here’s what each of them said in their decisions:

Texas

“After careful consideration, and applying the law as it must, this Court holds that Texas’ prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. Texas’ current marriage laws deny homosexual couples the right to marry, and in doing so, demean their dignity for no legitimate reason. Accordingly, the Court finds these laws are unconstitutional and hereby grants a preliminary injunction enjoining Defendants from enforcing Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage,” United States District Judge Orlando L. Garcia said in a Feb. 26 ruling.

Kentucky

“In the end, the Court concludes that Kentucky’s denial of recognition for valid same-sex marriages violates the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law, even under the most deferential standard of review. Accordingly, Kentucky’s statutes and constitutional amendment that mandate this denial are unconstitutional,” U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II said in a Feb. 12 ruling. The Kentucky ruling was limited in that the judge only found the state must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

Virginia

“The court is compelled to conclude that Virginia’s Marriage Laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia’s gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry. Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country’s cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family,” U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen said in a Feb. 13 ruling.

Oklahoma

“Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights,” U.S. District Judge Terence Kern wrote in his decision filed on Jan. 14.

Utah

“The court hereby declares that Amendment 3 is unconstitutional because it denies the Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Judge Robert J. Shelby, of the United States District Court for the District of Utah, wrote in his opinion filed on Dec. 20.

Ohio

The Ohio ruling is narrower and focuses on whether the state has the right to not recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. It does not, U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black ruled.

“The Court’s ruling today is a limited one, and states simply, that under the Constitution of the United States, Ohio must recognize valid out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples on Ohio death certificates, just as Ohio recognizes all other out-of-state marriages,” he wrote in a Dec. 23 ruling. “… Ohio law, as applied to these Plaintiffs, violates the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection: that ‘No State shall make or enforce any law which shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.’”

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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