Kentucky couple challenges same-sex marriage ban in federal court

Louisville, Ky. (AP) – A Louisville couple challenged Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriages, saying the state isn’t treating them and other same-sex couples on equal footing with other married couples.

Gregory Bourke and Michael De Leon, who were married in Canada nine years ago, asked U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn on July 26 to require Kentucky to recognize valid unions from other states and countries.

“There’s no reason why we should be second-class citizens,” De Leon said. “We should be at the table with everybody else.

The couple is seeking an injunction to stop state and local officials from enforcing the ban written into the Kentucky constitution in 2004. The suit is the first such challenge in Kentucky since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The act had blocked married same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits as heterosexual spouses.

Bourke, a 55-year-old applications consultant at Humana, and Deleon, a 55-year-old database administrator at General Electric, were married in at Niagara Falls, in 2004. Both men said the recent decision by the Supreme Court proved to be the impetus to challenge Kentucky’s ban.

“We feel like victims of discrimination,” Bourke said. “That’s what this lawsuit is about, not being treated equally under the law.”

Kentucky changed its state constitution in 2004 to include the prohibition on same-sex marriage. The amendment reads: “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky” and “A marriage between members of the same sex which occurs in another jurisdiction shall be void in Kentucky.”

Dawn Elliott, an attorney for the men, said marriage would allow same-sex couples to protect their children if one partner lacks health insurance, and prevent children from being removed from their home if something happened to the biological or legally recognized parent.

De Leon is the father of an adopted 15-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl. Bourke has been designated a legal guardian for the children. They want Bourke listed as a parent to the children. Kentucky’s ban bars him from being listed as a parent.

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