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Monday January 19, 2015

United States Supreme Court Takes Up Same-Sex Marriage Issue
posted by Rebecca A. Smither

The Unitied State's Supreme Court Takes Up Same-Sex Marriage Issue. 

It has been a hot topic for the past several years, and it appears the matter may soon be resolved.  The fate of same-sex marriage will be determined this year.  The United States Supreme Court announced Friday, January 16, 2015, that it will decide whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to enter into same-sex marriage.  The Court will hear cases from Kentucky and three other states (Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan), to address issues over whether the 14th Amendment requires a state to license same-sex marriages and also whether it requires states to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state.

            The Court will decide whether Senior U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II was correct was he ruled last February in a suit brought by four same-sex couples that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal.  The court will also determine the fate of another case in which Heyburn ruled in favor of two same-sex couples that Kentucky must allow same-sex marriages within its borders.

            In his rulings, Heyburn found that Kentucky’s laws and its state constitutional amendment barring gay marriage or its recognition violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee that all people should be treated equally under the law.

            In November, a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversed Heyburn’s decisions.  The Sixth Circuit panel upheld the bans against same-sex marriage.  That decision created a circuit split among the federal judiciary. 

            The Supreme Court’s decision was announced just days after a Jefferson County Family Court judge granted a divorce to a same-sex couple.  Despite Kentucky law which bars recognition of same-sex marriages performed where they are legal, Judge Joseph O’Reilly permitted the divorce of two women who were legally married in another state.  O’Reilly found that though state law says same-sex marriages performed elsewhere are void in Kentucky, barring same-sex couples the ability to divorce in Kentucky violates the state constitutional guarantee that all people should be considered equal.

            Final briefs are due to the Supreme Court in April, 2015.  A final decision on the issue is expected by June.

            The decision will have great impact on Kentucky Family Courts.  Clearly, as exhibited by the same-sex divorce granted by Hon. Joseph O’Reilly, the issue of same-sex marriage and divorce in Kentucky has already reached the trial courts.  Should same-sex marriages be recognized in Kentucky, the legal community will see a great expanse in its caseload.

        From marriage to dissolution, including matters involving prenuptial agreements, spousal maintenance and property division, adoption, child support and custody, the attorneys at Barber, Banaszynski & Hiatt, PSC are ready to assist all individuals with issues which may arise as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision.  For more information, contact Rebecca A. Smither at 502-254-2110.