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Ky. couple challenges ban on same-sex marriage

July 26. 2013 12:02PM
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Louisville couple on Friday 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 Deleon, both 55, are asking a federal judge in Louisville to require the state to recognize valid unions from other states and countries.

The men are 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, which blocked married same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits as heterosexual spouses.

The high court’s majority said provisions in the federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman interfered with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages in states that allowed them.

Bourke, a 55-year-old applications consultant at Humana, and Deleon, a 55-year-old database administrator at General Electric, were married in Ontario, Canada, in 2004.

“Like opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples build their lives together, plan their futures together and hope to grow old together,” attorneys Dawn Elliott and Shannon Fauver wrote in the lawsuit.

Challenges to same-sex marriage bans have been filed in recent weeks in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and New Mexico. The American Civil Liberties Union has said challenges are also expected in Virginia, Nevada, Hawaii and Michigan.

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.”

Elliott 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.

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

“They know they are a family and want to be legally recognized as one,” Elliott said.

Without a recognized marriage, Elliott said, the couple will face an inheritance tax at a higher rate than if their marriage was recognized by the state.

Bourke is no stranger to challenging restrictions on gays and lesbians. In February, Bourke started an online petition urging the United Way to denounce the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gays as Scouts or adult leaders. It targets United Way because the organization is a major financial contributor to Boy Scouts.

Bourke was an assistant scoutmaster for his adopted son’s Louisville Scout troop for several years until he was forced to resign last year after informing Scout leaders that he is gay. His role had included coordinating and supervising camping trips and helping boys achieve merit badges. His own 15-year-old son, Isaiah, is close to becoming an Eagle Scout, he said.

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