A HUGE Gay Rights Battle Was Just Won in Kentucky. This is a Really Big Deal.

A federal judge has struck down Kentucky's law banning gay marriages from other states.

This historic decision, which is being rightly celebrated by the pro-LGBT community, sets an important precedent. By establishing that the constitutional guarantee to equal protection under the law applies to gay couples, it exposes the lie in the "states' rights" rhetoric embraced for so long by ideological homophobes like those that originally created the Kentucky legislation. A federally-protected right, after all, cannot be compromised by the caprice of politicians. While other federal courts may contradict the ruling by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II, he has laid an important building block in what will hopefully become an edifice of full legal equality for the gay community.

He has also reminded our nation of the ideals of its founders.

As Judge Heyburn explained in his decision, although "religious beliefs ... are vital to the fabric of society ... 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."

This echoes the words of Thomas Jefferson in his famous "Notes on the State of Virginia," wherein he observed:

"The error seems not sufficiently eradicated, that the operations of the mind, as well as the acts of the body, are subject to the coercion of the laws. But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others."

Although leftists and libertarians may disagree with the position of those who morally disapprove of homosexuality, no one outside of the radical fringes in either movement challenges their right to hold those views. At the same time, preventing homosexuals from receiving the same rights enjoyed by heterosexuals blatantly violates their basic civil liberties. One can plausibly argue that the state shouldn’t be involved in the institution of marriage at all (which would effectively “legalize” it everywhere, since any church could perform the ceremony); the same cannot be said, however, for denying it on religious grounds.

Supporters of marriage equality should not be misled into thinking Judge Heyburn’s ruling is the final word on the subject. So long as there is homophobia in the hearts of the religious right, they will continue to construct new ways of impeding the rights of those who meet with their moral disapproval, from spurious John C. Calhounesque talk of small government to pseudoscholarly studies insisting that gay marriage is detrimental to society. Fortunately for anyone who favors gay rights, we don’t need new ways of supporting this important cause. The ideals of our founding fathers are as timeless now as they were when society had not yet advanced its pluralistic precepts to encompass our LGBT citizens. As James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers: No. 10:

“The great danger in republics is that the majority will not respect the rights of minority.”

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Matthew Rozsa

is a Ph.D. student in history at Lehigh University as well as a political columnist. His editorials have been published in "The Morning Call," "The Express-Times," "The Newark Star-Ledger," "The Baltimore Sun," and various college newspapers and blogs. I actively encourage people to reach out to me at matt.rozsa@gmail.com.

MORE FROM

What does consent look like on a show like 'Bachelor in Paradise'?

Warner Bros. has cleared the allegations involving Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson, leaving many questions about consent on the show in its wake.

Bill Cosby juror didn't believe Andrea Constand because Constand wore "bare midriff" to Cosby's home

This juror's response to Constand's testimony is victim blaming 101.

In North Carolina, women can't withdraw consent after giving it

The state's consent law says that once someone gives consent, they can't revoke it.

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman was catcalled on stage and it didn't go well

Hall of fame hockey player Marcel Dionne yelled "Look at those legs!" while onstage with Raisman at the 2017 NHL Awards.

How the Senate's draft health care plan could affect reproductive services

It is very close to the House's version of the bill, and would block federal funding for Planned Parenthood for a year.

Jury in Bill Cosby case voted 10-2 in favor of conviction, according to juror report

2 jurors prevented the unanimous vote prosecutors needed to convict Bill Cosby of criminal charges, according to an account given to ABC News.

What does consent look like on a show like 'Bachelor in Paradise'?

Warner Bros. has cleared the allegations involving Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson, leaving many questions about consent on the show in its wake.

Bill Cosby juror didn't believe Andrea Constand because Constand wore "bare midriff" to Cosby's home

This juror's response to Constand's testimony is victim blaming 101.

In North Carolina, women can't withdraw consent after giving it

The state's consent law says that once someone gives consent, they can't revoke it.

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman was catcalled on stage and it didn't go well

Hall of fame hockey player Marcel Dionne yelled "Look at those legs!" while onstage with Raisman at the 2017 NHL Awards.

How the Senate's draft health care plan could affect reproductive services

It is very close to the House's version of the bill, and would block federal funding for Planned Parenthood for a year.

Jury in Bill Cosby case voted 10-2 in favor of conviction, according to juror report

2 jurors prevented the unanimous vote prosecutors needed to convict Bill Cosby of criminal charges, according to an account given to ABC News.