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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- A federal judge strikes down part of Kentucky's marriage amendment, ruling the Bluegrass state must recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
The ruling is not final, and, according to the court, another hearing on the matter will be scheduled in the near future.
The 23-page ruling does not say if Kentucky could be ordered to perform gay marriages, but addresses only the question of recognizing those that are legal from other states or countries.
Four gay and lesbian couples filed the suit that challenged Kentucky's constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriages.
Voters passed the constitutional ban in 2004 with the out-of-state marriage clause a part of it.
U.S. District Judge John Heyburn said the state's laws treat such couples differently "in a way that demeans them."
Attorney general Jack Conway had argued that preservation of the state's "institution of traditional marriage" was enough to justify the amendment.
But Judge Heyburn disagreed, saying that tradition "cannot alone justify their infringement on individual liberties."
He added that the legal view of same-sex marriage slowly has evolved so that, today, "the right of same-sex spouses to the state-conferred benefits of marriage is virtually compelled."
"We've never granted civil rights based on popular polls, and this is another instance where we have to ensure that all Kentuckians are treated equally," said Mike Aldridge, executive director with ACLU of Kentucky.
Aldridge says the ACLU will file an amicus brief in support of marriage equality if the decision is appealed.
"This decision puts Kentucky voters on notice that if their reasons for defining marriage as between a man and a woman don't correspond with the political ideology of liberal judges, their votes don't count."
"Now we have the situation where our marriage policy in Kentucky will be dictated from places like Boston or San Francisco rather than the people in this state," said Family Foundation spokesman Martin Cothran in an interview, adding that the ruling nullifies Kentucky's right to determine policies regarding marriage.
"If a state like Utah were ever to legalize polygamy, Kentucky would be forced to recognize it under this decision," Cothran said in a news release.
Cothran said Kentucky voters will be disappointed with the practical effects of the decision.
Gov. Beshear said Wednesday it is too early to say if the state will appeal.
Such decisions in other states have been appealed, and there are predictions this one could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) had this to say about the ruling:
"I am proud of the four Kentucky families who are standing up for marriage equality in this lawsuit and of the thousands more who continue this fight every day. Today's ruling is an important step forward in the march toward recognition of all marriages under the law and full equality in our Commonwealth."
Matt Bevin, conservative Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, made the following statement on the federal judge decision to strike down Kentucky marriage law:
"I'm deeply disappointed in Judge Heyburn's decision to overturn Kentucky's right to determine the definition of marriage within its own borders. This type of judicial activism hurts America's democratic process. It is no surprise that Judge Heyburn was Mitch McConnell's general counsel and McConnell recommended him for the federal bench. Kentucky deserves better."
U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell also issued this statement following the ruling:
"The people of Kentucky voted overwhelmingly to enshrine in our Constitution that marriage in our state is between one man and one woman. I am a traditionalist and support that position, but regardless of one's personal view on the issue, we should be able to agree that only the people of Kentucky, through the legislative process, should have the authority to change the law, not the courts. I will continue to support traditional marriage and fight to make sure that Kentuckians define marriage as we see fit and never have a definition forced on us by interests outside of our state."
Thursday, the state senate takes up a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Indiana.
If lawmakers restore language about banning civil unions, the amendment could go to Hoosier voters in November.