Kentucky’s same-sex marriage plaintiffs rejoice after Supreme Court decision

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling that legalized same-sex marriage on Friday, the Kentucky-based plaintiffs in the case gathered for a press conference to talk about what the 5-4 decision will mean for gay couples going forward.

(To read IL’s earlier coverage on the decision, click here.)

Luther Barlowe, left, and Jimmy Meade. Photo by David Serchuk

Luther Barlowe, left, and Jimmy Meade. Photo by David Serchuk

The couples and their attorneys spoke at the law offices of Clay Daniel Walton Adams. Three of the lead attorneys involved in the case, Dan Canon, Joe Dunman and Laura Landenwich, practice at the firm.

The press conference put a human face to a highly politicized issue, showing the real impact of marriage equality. It was hard not to be moved by the stories of these longtime couples, as their relationships finally gain legal recognition in the commonwealth.

Today’s landmark case was titled Obergefell v. Hodges, named for an Ohio man who had sued his state to get his name listed on the death certificate of his deceased husband. This case included plaintiffs from four other states, including Kentucky. The Kentucky case was titled Bourke v. Beshear, and it sought a ruling that Kentucky’s 2003 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The Kentucky plaintiffs were: Gregory Bourke and Michael DeLeon, Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza, and Randell Johnson and Paul Campion, all of Louisville; Jimmy Meade and Luther Barlowe, of Bardstown; and Kimberly Franklin and Tamara Boyd, of Cropper.

Attorney Dan Canon said it’s not possible to overstate the importance of today’s decision. “Our clients, and couples like them around the country, are not second-class citizens, and their relationships are not second-tier relationships.”

Johnson and Campion have been together 24 years and are the parents of four children. Their reaction was one of relief, because prior to today the state of Kentucky didn’t recognize both of them as parents to their children.

Johnson said they originally sought to adopt through the state of Kentucky, but the state said no because “there were two men in the household” and “because there was no mother figure in the house.” They instead went through private agencies, but only one of them could legally adopt the children. “That placed our family at significant risk for any legal issues,” he said. For example, if the legal parent died, the other parent had no rights to their children — until today.

Today’s decision put such fears to rest, he added: “We’re going to be celebrating for the rest of our lives.”

Barlow and Meade have been together 47 years and were the oldest couple represented in today’s Supreme Court case. They were married in Iowa in 2009, and Barlow said they had been in the closet until that marriage. “We never even held hands in public,” he said. “It was just something that wasn’t done.”

Plaintiff Timothy Love praised the work done by the Kentucky attorneys in this case. This included not just Dunman and Canon, but also Dawn Elliott and Shannon Fauver, of Louisville’s Fauver Law Office; it was Elliott and Fauver who filed the initial lawsuit that began the litigation. “I can’t say enough about our local attorneys,” Love said. “They brought the largest case to the Supreme Court in this case, of all the state cases. The briefs that were submitted in this case were widely recognized as the best briefs.”

Still, more work needs to be done.

Chris Hartman, director of Louisville’s Fairness Campaign, said at the press conference that Kentucky remains a state that has to institute a formal, legal ban against LGBT discrimination in regards to employment, housing, and public accommodations. So far, a handful of cities across the state have banned such discriminatory practices, but 75 percent of the state’s population remains unprotected, he said.

“Three quarters (of Kentucky residents) can be fired from their job, denied a place to live or kicked out of a restaurant … based upon who they are, and whom they love,” he said.

Michael Aldridge, head of the ACLU of Kentucky, said that organization wants the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to be added to Kentucky’s state Civil Rights Act as protected classes. For this to happen it would have to be passed by both the Kentucky state Senate and House, and then signed into law by the governor. He said he hoped this would be taken up in the next session of the state’s General Assembly.

Correction: The original version of this story failed to mention attorney Laura Landenwich, who worked on the case.