Some (But Not All) Same-Sex Marriages Now Legal in Kentucky

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 28 2014 11:03 AM

Some (But Not All) Same-Sex Marriages Now Legal in Kentucky

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A gay pride parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But it could have been Lexington, Kentucky on Thursday.

Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, the Associated Press announced on Twitter that same-sex marriage was now "legally recognized" in Kentucky. 25 minutes later, the AP corrected the tweet, claiming it had "incorrectly stated" that a judicial order legalizing gay marriage throughout the state had been issued. Yet the full AP story released soonafter retained the language of the original tweet. So, are gay marriages now "legally recognized" in Kentucky?

Yes—but not all of them. The ruling that launched a thousand tweets was actually just an order granting effect to an earlier ruling requiring Kentucky to recognize valid same-sex marriages performed in other states. And because Judge John Heyburn, who issued the order, ignored the state's request for a stay, all gay couples in Kentucky who were legally married elsewhere are now married in Kentucky, as well. In that sense, then, same-sex marriage has officially come to the Bluegrass State. 

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The confusion was likely exacerbated by a second Kentucky lawsuit, also on Judge Heyburn's docket, brought by gay couples seeking to invalidate the entirety of the state's gay marriage ban. For the sake of efficiency, Judge Heyburn set a schedule for this second lawsuit on Thursday, and allowed additional gay couples to intervene. This suit is almost certain to succeed, given the sweepingly pro-equality language of Judge Heyburn's first ruling. But until it does, no gay couple can obtain a valid marriage certificate within Kentucky's borders without first traveling to an equality state.

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.

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