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February 13, 2014

As suits multiply, gay-marriage backers win in Ky.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, part of an unprecedented barrage of marriage-equality lawsuits in states where voters have overwhelmingly opposed recognition of gay and lesbian couples.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II struck down part of the gay-marriage ban that Kentuckians had approved in 2004, saying it treated gays and lesbians “in a way that demeans them.”

“Assigning a religious or traditional rationale for a law does not make it constitutional when that law discriminates against a class of people without other reasons,” wrote Heyburn, an appointee of Republican President George H.W. Bush.

His decision coincided with legal attacks Wednesday on gay-marriage bans in three other socially conservative states — Texas, Louisiana and Missouri — and was issued just a few weeks after federal judges in Utah and Oklahoma struck down the voter-approved bans in those states.

According to the advocacy group Freedom to Marry, there are now 45 pending marriage-equality cases in 24 of the 33 states that do not allow same-sex marriage. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have legalized such unions, while three other states — Colorado, Nevada and Oregon — grant marriage-like rights though civil unions or domestic partnerships.

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