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Ky. couple sues state in effort to force Commonwealth to issue marriage license

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A Kentucky couple sued the state Friday, seeking to force it to issue same-sex marriage licenses after a federal judge ruled earlier this week that unions performed legally in other places must be recognized by the Bluegrass State.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Louisville seeks to build on that earlier ruling by raising the issue of whether Kentucky should sanction the marriages within its borders.

The suit comes on the heels of a flurry of rulings and other legal activity as activists push more states to recognize gay marriages. A federal judge in Virginia late Thursday struck down that state's ban, ruling it was unconstitutional.

Also Thursday, activists in Nevada launched a campaign to put a measure on the 2016 ballot giving voters the option to change the state constitution to allow gay marriage, and lawmakers in Wisconsin backed a similar proposal there. Lawsuits in Alabama and Louisiana are seeking to push those states to either acknowledge or allow same-sex unions.

In Kentucky, two couples, Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza, who have been together for 33 years, and Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James, who have been together for a decade, want U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II to issue order the state to stop denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"To have that acknowledged, we would be elated. Obviously, there's a lot to it," James told The Associated Press. "We just want to be treated equal to our heterosexual brothers and sisters. If we can get that, we will be satisfied."

A message left for the Kentucky Attorney General's Office was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.

In overturning Kentucky law on not recognizing marriage performed in other states or countries, Heyburn ruled that the 2004 constitutional amendment treated "gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them."

Kentucky is one of 11 states where state or federal courts have reached similar conclusions about same-sex marriage bans.

Heyburn's earlier decision only requires Kentucky to recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples performed legally in other places. It does not deal with the question of whether the state can be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That issue wasn't brought up in the four lawsuits that triggered the ruling.

Heyburn noted that recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings and his opinion in the Kentucky case "suggest a possible result to that question."

Attorney Shannon Fauver, who represents the two couples, said Heyburn's prior decision served as the groundwork for the filing on Friday.

"I expect some type of opinion within the next 30 days," Fauver said. "We've already laid the framework."

Blanchard said the plaintiffs in the case that brought Wednesday's ruling were "coming at it from the outside," seeking to force the state to recognize a marriage held elsewhere.

"Now, Dominique and myself are coming at it from the inside. We have a right to be recognized as well. We want that to happen." Blanchard said. "It would be inspiring to other same sex couples who are continuously berated and discriminated against."

It was unclear Friday if the state would appeal Heyburn's ruling requiring the recognition of gay marriage.

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Follow Associated Press reporter Brett Barrouquere on Twitter: HTTP://TWITTER.COM/BBARROUQUEREAP

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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