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By Katie Brandenburg and Laurel Wilson
Bowling Green Daily News
Not surprisingly, reaction was mixed to last Thursday’s federal ruling that Kentucky must recognize other states’ same-sex marriages.
“I’m pretty proud of the state right now,” said Christin Mulwitz, who has been married more than three years to her wife Marcie.
Conservative Christians have a different view.
The Rev. Chris Patterson, pastor of St. James United Methodist Church, is upset by the order from U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II because he believes it undermines the rights of more than 1 million Kentuckians who voted to enact the 2004 amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.
“My first reaction was simple sadness that a single judge can make a decision that impacts a lot of lives in the commonwealth,” Patterson said.
The Rev. Jason Pettus, senior pastor for Living Hope Baptist Church, a congregation of about 3,000 people, said the ruling is a “travesty.”
Patterson thinks the judge’s ruling will eventually lead to same-sex marriage being sanctioned nationwide, which he believes would cause “long-term devastating effects.”
Christin and Marcie Mulwitz of Warren County got married more than three years ago in Provincetown, Mass., but their marriage has never been recognized in Kentucky.
That could change with Thursday’s order, provided Heyburn doesn’t issue a 90-day delay as called for at the last minute by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.
Conway’s request came right before Heyburn issued his final order.
“I certainly would encourage the attorney general to do his job, which would be to appeal this order,” Pettus said. “And the governor should do his job and speak to what the people of the commonwealth have voted for and stated in the constitution.”
The ruling follows one last year by the U.S. Supreme Court calling the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, giving couples such as the Mulwitzes the chance to file federal taxes together for the first time this year.
They hope that, if the most recent Kentucky ruling stands, they will be able to file joint taxes in Kentucky. Christin Mulwitz said the ruling also would mean they won’t have to worry about what will happen to common assets if one of them dies or whether one would be admitted into the hospital to visit the other.
“It’s a lot of the little things that people don’t realize,” she said.
Because of Kentucky’s location in the Bible Belt, Christin Mulwitz said the decision is likely to be appealed.
Conway is weighing whether the state will appeal the ruling. Meanwhile, at least one lawmaker, Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, told Kentucky Public Radio that he was considering legislation that would give someone else the power to intervene if Conway doesn’t appeal.
State Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Rockfield, said he would want to study any such proposal before making a decision.
Patterson thinks the ruling, as it stands, opens a Pandora’s box.
“Any time a group of people decided (to stray from a one-man, one-woman marriage) ... that society tends to go the way of the dinosaurs,” he said.
He believes homosexual relationships aren’t compatible with Christian teachings and is concerned about how a balance between church and state will be struck if same-sex marriage is allowed.
“What is going to stop them from attacking churches and religious organizations who do not believe that is a permittable lifestyle?” Patterson said.
He knows many church-going people have different opinions than his about same-sex marriage and he believes they should find a way to talk about it together.
Pettus believes parents need to have stronger marriages and should “train their children to understand the role of sexuality and dignity of relationships and parameters seen in nature.
“But this is in no way an attack on individuals who have a sexual orientation,” Pettus said. “This is a conversation and a law about what is best for the country, the land and society. It is not a judgment against an individual; it is bigger than that.”
The Rev. Peter Connolly, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bowling Green, believes Heyburn’s ruling is a positive step toward marriage equality.
“For us, it’s a question of civil rights, and everyone should have the opportunity to make marital vows with the person they love,” he said.
If the ruling stands, it would be a cause for celebration, Christin Mulwitz said.
She said even if the order is appealed, she believes it will ultimately stand.
“Change is inevitable; it just happens so slowly,” she said.
Marcie Mulwitz said she thinks that by next year, the Supreme Court will be hearing another case involving gay marriage and ruling on whether or not it is a right.
Five years ago, she said, she wouldn’t have believed that same-sex marriage would be recognized in Kentucky in her lifetime.
“I’m confident within the next five years it’s not even going to be an issue,” Marcie Mulwitz said.
Rachel Walston of Bowling Green plans to marry her fiancee, Stephanie Maloney, in April in Washington, D.C.
Walston said hearing about the newest judgment in Kentucky is exciting.
“I am excited about it,” she said. “I think it’s a good thing and I like this upswing that we’re on.”
While she’s not sure if the judgment is a sign that Kentucky will sanction same-sex marriages within the state, the momentum in favor of same-sex couples is positive, Walston said. She has seen Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repealed and DOMA struck down in the last few years.
Maloney is in the Army, training at the Defense Information School at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. Because of that, the Supreme Court DOMA decision and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell have more significance for the couple than if Kentucky begins recognizing out-of state-marriages, Walston said.
As a married couple, Walston will be able to join Maloney if she is stationed elsewhere and won’t have to worry about things like being allowed into the hospital to see her, she said.
“I’m concerned with just being able to be there for her if something ever would happen to her,” Walston said.
She said that she doesn’t want to become involved in politics or make a political statement.
“What it comes down to is that I love her, and we decided that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together,” Walston said.
Dora James, western Kentucky organizer for the Fairness Campaign, said that while the attorney general has asked for implementation of the order to be delayed, the ruling puts Kentucky on the right track.
“I see marriage equality as a rising trend in our country,” she said.
James said she doesn’t want to see the state be on the “wrong side of history” on same-sex marriage.
“I don’t want my home state to be lagging behind,” she said.
The order undermines the foundation of Kentucky’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, James said.
And for Pettus, that is a problem.
“Judges have determined that they are going to make the laws that they deem fit regardless of what the people have voted for,” he said.