Bourke v. Beshear plaintiffs Michael De Leon and Greg Bourke, protesting the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in November
Bourke v. Beshear plaintiffs Michael De Leon and Greg Bourke, protesting the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in November

The Supreme Court of the United States today granted the appeal of Kentucky plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the state’s decade-old ban on same-sex marriages and the recognition of such marriages performed in other states.

The justices will not only hear Kentucky’s Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear cases, but the rest of the cases in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals from Michigan, Tennessee and Ohio.

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn first struck down Kentucky’s marriage ban in February, only to be overruled by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in November, which upheld the ban in Kentucky along with Michigan, Tennessee and Ohio.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments for the case in April and make a decision in June. If the same-sex marriage bans are struck down by the court, marriage equality would spread to all 50 states.

This post will be updated with more information as we receive it.

***** UPDATE *****

The lead case among the four — which it will now be commonly known as — is Ohio’s Obergefell v. Hodges.

“It’s a momentous day and it’s exciting,” Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman told Insider Louisville. “I can’t imagine how great the couples feel. And certainly LGBT folks — not just in Kentucky, but across the nation — have been waiting for this day, and ultimately for the next day. But soon the waiting game will be over and there will be a decision on the law of the land, and I believe it will be in favor of the freedom to marry.”

The full order can be read below:

Supreme Court Order Granting Marriage Cases by Equality Case Files

***** UPDATE 5:10 p.m. *****

Here is the statement from Gov. Steve Beshear:

“The Supreme Court made the right decision in choosing to rule on the four pending cases regarding same sex marriage. Because the Sixth Circuit’s ruling conflicts with other Circuit opinions on the same issue, this created unacceptable variances in state laws that only the Supreme Court can resolve.

Any further delay in the Court’s consideration of these cases would prolong the instability and uncertainty which states and families currently endure.  Kentuckians, and indeed all Americans, deserve clarity and finality on this matter, and the assurance that the law will be consistent across state lines.”

***** UPDATE 5:24 p.m. *****

Attorney General Eric Holder just announced that the Department of Justice will file a friend of the court brief in support of the plaintiffs and bringing marriage equality to all 50 states:

“After the Justice Department’s decision not to defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court sent a powerful message that Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law.  This landmark decision marked a historic step toward equality for all American families.

“The Supreme Court has announced that it will soon hear several cases raising core questions concerning the constitutionality of same-sex marriages.  As these cases proceed, the Department of Justice will remain committed to ensuring that the benefits of marriage are available as broadly as possible.  And we will keep striving to secure equal treatment for all members of society—regardless of sexual orientation.

“As such, we expect to file a ‘friend of the court’ brief in these cases that will urge the Supreme Court to make marriage equality a reality for all Americans.  It is time for our nation to take another critical step forward to ensure the fundamental equality of all Americans—no matter who they are, where they come from, or whom they love.”

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]