A federal judge in Kentucky has allowed
a gay couple to file jointly for bankruptcy. It is believed to be
the first such filing by a gay couple in the state.
Bob Joles and Joey Lester, who have
been together for 16 years, married on May 9 in Buffalo, New York,
one of six states where such unions are legal.
The Louisville couple lost more than
$200,000 in a market in downtown Louisville, The Bodega at Felice.
The couple was allowed to file a joint
Chapter 13 bankruptcy in federal court because the Obama
administration is no longer challenging such filings.
Last year, a federal bankruptcy court
in California ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
unconstitutional. DOMA is the 1996 law which prohibits federal
agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian
In an unusual show of support, 19 out of
the remaining 23 judges of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central
District of California signed on to Judge Thomas B. Donovan's
ruling, which read in part: “In this court's judgment, no legally
married couple should be entitled to fewer bankruptcy rights than any
other legally married couple.”
Filing jointly “made our marriage
seem more real,” Joles, 48, told the Courier-Journal.
“And it forced the court to recognize us as a married couple.”
Supporters of Kentucky's 2004
constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual unions
chided the ruling.
“For a bankruptcy trustee and judge
to allow this to go forward in the commonwealth of Kentucky is an
affront to the citizens of this state who spoke very loudly in 2004
when they passed the marriage amendment,” said state Rep. Stan Lee,
a Republican from Lexington.
At the direction of House Speaker John
Boehner, the House's Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) has
intervened in at least 12 DOMA-related cases since President Barack
Obama instructed the Department of Justice to no longer defend the
law in court. However, BLAG has not appealed bankruptcy cases
involving married gay couples.
A Boehner spokesperson told the paper
that such litigation would be too expensive and “unlikely to
provide the path to the Supreme Court, where we imagine the question
of constitutionality will ultimately be decided.”