In 1998, the Kentucky legislature passed a law limiting the legal definition of marriage to that between a man and a woman, and prohibited the recognition of marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in other states. Eight years later, the state amended its constitution to codify these prohibitions. Supporters of the amendment couched their arguments in explicitly religious terms, with one legislator urging that the amendment was necessary to protect “the sacred institution of marriage join[ing] together a man and a woman for the stability of society and for the greater glory of God.”
In 2013, a group of same-sex couples sued to invalidate Kentucky’s marriage ban. The federal trial court ruled in favor of the couples, and the state appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In June 2014, we joined with the Anti-Defamation League and a broad array of religious and cultural groups to submit an amicus brief in support of the couples.
This case was one of several marriage-equality cases argued before the Sixth Circuit at the same time. In November 2014, the Sixth Circuit became the first federal court of appeals to uphold a state law banning same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court then agreed to hear the case.
In March 2015, we filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court refuting the argument, often made by advocates of marriage bans, that permitting same-sex marriage would harm religious liberty in the United States. We explain that existing law provides a framework for accommodating the rights of both same-sex couples and religious objectors, and that recognizing the equal dignity of same-sex couples would not pose a threat to religious liberty.
The case was argued in April 2015, alongside three other marriage cases: DeBoer v. Snyder, Obergefell v. Hodges, and Tanco v. Haslam.
In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who got married in other states.