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Louisville Plaintiffs Await Same-Sex Marriage's Day Before the U.S. Supreme Court

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Next month, a challenge to same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky and three other states will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Ahead of those arguments, the Kentucky plaintiffs have been been doing community outreach.

Earlier this month, six Kentucky petitioners gathered at the First Unitarian Church in Louisville—their second community meeting in as many days. Though the couples are scattered across the state, plaintiff Michael De Leon said they keep in touch and socialize.

"You know, we have become like a family,” he said.

Over the last few months, De Leon and his partner of 33 years—Greg Bourke—have joined a special club.

Their case—along with gay marriage lawsuits filed by other couples from Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee—is expected to decide the issue of gay marriage nationwide.

Attorney Dawn Elliott, who filed the original lawsuit against Kentucky’s ban, said she had no idea the case would play such an important role in civil rights history.

“The fact that this potentially will change, first of all, history and two rights of all LGBT citizens, and Kentucky’s name is stamped on it—that’s amazing,” Elliott said.

At the moment, same-sex marriage is banned in Kentucky under a 2004 law. The law was struck down last year in federal court, but Gov. Steve Beshear hired attorneys to challenge the ruling on behalf of the state, saying he wanted the matter settledon a national level. An appeals court overturned that decisions last fall.

But, plaintiff Randy Johnson said he’s not happy a lawsuit was necessary in the first place.

“It’s disappointing in retrospect that we have had to spend an awful lot of our energy on protecting our family from discriminatory laws that are on the books in Kentucky,” he said.

Johnson and his partner of more than two decades—much like the other plaintiffs—have raised children and built a family. They said this fight is about making sure their children have two married parents recognized under the law.

Last summer’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, which struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, is a sign to many the court will rule in favor of gay marriage. Bourke said he is cautiously optimistic, though.

“The Supreme Court could make a ruling that is kind of out of step with what we see in the rest of the country right now, although I think that is very unlikely,” Bourke said.

Attorneys will deliver oral arguments before the court on April 28.