Timothy Burcham and Phillip Marcum wed two years ago in New York City, and starting Thursday afternoon, the Lexington men's marriage was as legal as anyone else's in Kentucky.
"We're ecstatic," said Burcham, a vice president at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. "For us, it's long overdue recognition. It allows us to treat our relationship and our assets and our rights and responsibilities the same way that everyone else gets to."
Although much remains uncertain, Burcham said he looks forward to some of the legal advantages of marriage, such as being able to cover his spouse on his workplace health insurance plan.
"We're about to file joint tax returns for the first time," Burcham said.
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II in Louisville issued a final order Thursday requiring Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states and countries. Heyburn struck down parts of a 1998 state law and a 2004 state constitutional amendment defining marriage in Kentucky as between one man and one woman, and prohibiting the state from recognizing same-sex marriages from elsewhere.
"To the extent (that state laws) deny validly married same-sex couples equal recognition and benefits under Kentucky and federal law, those laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and they are void and unenforceable," Heyburn wrote in his two-sentence order.
However, Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway, who defended the same-sex marriage ban in court, have 30 days to appeal. And hours before Heyburn handed down his order, Conway's office filed a motion asking Heyburn for a "stay," a 90-day delay in implementing the ruling.