By RONNIE ELLIS / CNHI News Service
They weren’t expecting a federal judge’s ruling Wednesday that said Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
But Courtney Langdon and Rachel Longley are thrilled anyway.
“I was shocked,” said Langdon, 26, a Western Kentucky University graduate who grew up in Louisville and works there now as a food service director and dietician. “I never thought I would be able to be married to someone I truly, truly love and that we would be recognized as married.”
She and Longley, 25, an independent businesswoman, were married six months ago in Maryland. Longley is from Britain, living in the states on student and work visas. Now, Langdon said, Longley can apply for a green card which conveys civil privileges which the others don’t.
“It’s huge for Rachel as far as opening up more opportunities,” Langdon said. “We can grow more; we can have more opportunity now.”
Langdon got the news of Judge John Heyburn’s ruling in a text message from Longley who was at work at the time. Heyburn had ruled Kentucky can no longer refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states because it violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
It strikes down a 1998 Kentucky law and part of a 2004 amendment to the Kentucky constitution which says in part that “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky.”
That’s what Heyburn says is unconstitutional. The ruling does not require Kentucky to allow same-sex marriages to be performed in Kentucky. But the ruling clearly applies to Courtney and Rachel.
“We’re both very surprised but it is a reason to celebrate again even though it’s only been six months since the marriage,” Langdon said. “I never expected it to happen but it’s so good to be recognized as married just like everyone else.”
She said she and Rachel plan to go out to dinner and for some celebratory drinks tomorrow night with friends of theirs, another female couple.
“It means so much for people — whether or not they accept it — we’re not asking to be accepted,” Langdon explained. “We’re just asking to be treated equally. I mean, we are living in America.”
Langdon said she grew up Catholic in Louisville. She “came out” when she was 18, and it was difficult at first for her parents, Langdon said, not because they were judgmental but because they loved their daughter so much.
“They were worried about me and people judging me and worried about my safety. But my parents always loved me no matter what.”
Now, she said, her parents “accept Rachel just like their own daughter.” And Rachel’s parents are also supportive.
In fact, they are coming to Louisville in May when Courtney and Rachel will renew their vows here for their Kentucky friends and family.
“My dad’s walking me down the aisle,” said Langdon proudly.
She said she and Rachel live openly as a gay, married couple and don’t hide their relationship from friends and family. While Langdon hasn’t yet told her employees, she plans to. She said she attends gay pride events but hasn’t been an especially vocal activist for gay equality.
“Rachel and I never, you know, demanded anything,” Langdon said. “But now that it’s happened . . . it’s just a really good feeling.”
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.