WASHINGTON (CNS) — A U.S. District Court judge July 1 struck down Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying that the prohibition violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“Assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the freedom of others to any degree,” said Judge John G. Heyburn in Louisville, Kentucky. The ruling was put on hold temporarily.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said the state will appeal the decision. The Kentucky Catholic Conference did not have an immediate reaction as officials said they were still studying the ruling.
The decision by Heyburn, who earlier ruled Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages from other states, came about a week after a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban.
After issuing its decision June 25, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals immediately put its ruling on hold pending an appeal. The Utah attorney general’s office said in a statement it planned to file a petition with the Supreme Court.
The circuit court covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. As a result, same-sex marriage bans in those states face being overturned in a court challenge.
No immediate reaction came from the bishops in the affected states.
Since the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, 16 federal judges have issued rulings in favor of same-sex marriage.
In the most recent case, a federal judge in Indiana ruled that state’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. A federal appeals court issued a stay of the June 25 ruling by Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
And in St. Louis, Mayor Francis Slay sidestepped Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriage and issued four marriage licenses to same-sex couples June 25. A municipal judge officiated over marriage ceremonies for the couples.
The bishops of Indiana and Missouri issued statements reiterating church teaching that marriage can only be between one man and one woman.
While saying the Catholic Church upholds the dignity of every person, including persons of same-sex attraction, the bishops of the Indiana Catholic Conference said the church also upholds the dignity and sanctity of marriage “as a natural union established by God between one man and one woman, intended toward the establishment of a family in which children are born, raised and nurtured.”
“This is not simply a matter of belief. It is at the very heart of the nature of marriage. Thus, it is not within the power of any institution, religious or secular, to redefine marriage since it is God who is its author,” the statement said.
“With deep respect for all our brothers and sisters, we nevertheless see no basis in law or in nature for any definition of marriage that seeks to expand it beyond that of a covenant between one man and one woman,” the statement continued. “Our position on this matter seeks only the common good of all men and women as well as the health and wellbeing of families.”
The Missouri Catholic Conference said it was “deeply disappointed” in the actions of Slay and city officials who officiated over “same-sex ceremonies in open defiance of the Missouri constitution.”
In upholding the dignity of all people, the Missouri bishops said marriage between one man and one woman was for “the benefit of the spouses, the creation of a stable environment for the upbringing of children, and to serve as the fundamental building block of society for the common good.”
“Public officials fail in their duty to protect this institution and the common good by taking actions designed to redefine marriage, the statement said.
Also in a statement June 26, the Archdiocese of St. Louis expressed disappointment that the city granted the civil marriage licenses.
“It is disheartening to see our wonderful city, named after the great Catholic civil leader, St. King Louis IX, so eagerly cast aside the laws of our state and disregard the laws of nature,” a statement from the archdiocese said. “The fact is, the union of two men or the union of two women is not the same as the union of a woman and a man.”
The archdiocese stressed the importance of caring for individuals with same-sex attractions, and also stressed Catholic teaching in terms of sexuality.
“Loving a person does not mean accepting all their behaviors,” the archdiocese stated. “The church does not condemn individuals for having same-sex attraction. Persons who struggle with same-sex attraction must be loved with respect, compassion and sensitivity.
“At the same time, the Catholic faith teaches that all people are called to responsibility regarding sexuality — whether they are homosexual or heterosexual, priest or layperson. Part of that responsibility means understanding that sex is to be reserved for marriage, and that marriage between a man and a woman is the only kind of union from which children can come.”
The appeals court action to stay the Indiana ruling came June 27, throwing into legal limbo the status of marriage licenses obtained by same-sex couples and the validity of the marriages of same-sex couples during the days after Young’s ruling.
Bryan Corbin, spokesman for the Indiana attorney general’s office, said such issues “might have to be determined by a court later.”
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster sued St. Louis June 26, citing the state’s constitution, which recognizes only marriage between one man and one woman and bars county recorders from issuing marriage license to same-sex couples.
The city voluntarily agreed to refrain from issuing more marriage licenses while the case was pending. The legal status of the marriages remained in question.
Contributing to this story was Dave Luecking in St. Louis.
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