LGBTQ Legal Rights in Kentucky: What You Need to Know

Doug Mann

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Table of Contents
  1. Same-Sex Marriage
  2. Employment Law
  3. Kentucky LGBT Adoption 
  4. LGBT Health Care Protections
  5. Conversion Therapy Protections in Kentucky
  6. Transgender Rights and Protections
  7. Get Help From an Attorney

Kentucky does not currently have a comprehensive statewide law that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination. This means that a person can still be fired, denied housing, or refused service simply because of whom they love or how they identify. 

Nonetheless, as of January 5, 2021, the following municipalities have passed local ordinances banning LGBTQ discrimination, either for sexual orientation or gender identity, in employment, housing and public accommodation:

  • City of Bellevue
  • City of Cold Spring
  • City of Covington
  • City of Danville
  • City of Dayton
  • City of Fort Thomas
  • City of Frankfort
  • City of Georgetown
  • City of Henderson
  • City of Highland Heights
  • City of Lexington
  • City of Louisville
  • City of Maysville
  • City of Midway
  • City of Morehead
  • City of Newport
  • City of Paducah
  • City of Versailles
  • City of Vicco
  • Lexington-Fayette County
  • Louisville-Jefferson County
  • Woodford County

Same-Sex Marriage

Same-sex marriage has been lawful in Kentucky since 2015. Obergefell v. Hodges is a landmark civil rights case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.  

When Kentucky began to pass discriminatory bills in 2014, just before the Obergefell case, we saw many lawsuits against them. Namely, Bourke vs Beshear and Love vs Beshear. These two cases helped lead to the decision by the Supreme Court as they were added to the Obergefell case.  

As a result, under the principles of Obergefell, the following benefits are available to all married same-sex couples on the same basis as they are available to married different-sex couples:

  • All states recognize marriages performed in other states
  • Same-sex couples can file joint state tax returns
  • Employers must now offer same-sex couple spousal benefits
  • Couples have the same visitation and decision making rights as other couples
  • Now same-sex couples have the same rights upon the death of a partner
  • A right to divorce

Employment Law

June 15th, 2020 brought with it a landmark 6-3 decision from the Supreme Court that affirmed the prohibition on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Naturally, this extended protections through to Kentucky as well. The decision was ultimately a result of three different cases that the Supreme Court combined to issue a single opinion:

Kentucky LGBT Adoption 

Kentucky state law only gives the ability to petition to adopt to couples who are married or single adults – LGBT individuals and couples included. Cohabiting couples are not allowed the right to adopt at the moment, and no new legislation addressing this seems to be in the works for the time being.

With same-sex marriage being legal in Kentucky, this opens the door to LGBTQ couples interested in adopting or fostering, but only if they want to marry or have only one person as the legal guardian.

LGBT Health Care Protections

The State of Kentucky offers no legal protections against discrimination in health care and health insurance on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

This has many practical negative effects on the LGBTQ community. A substantial body of research indicates that LGBTQ populations across the United States encounter significant barriers to health care. Specifically, they have difficulty finding providers who are knowledgeable about their needs, encounter discrimination from insurers or providers, or delay or forego care because of concerns about how they will be treated. In the absence of federal legislation prohibiting healthcare discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT people are often left with little recourse when discrimination occurs. 

Conversion Therapy Protections in Kentucky

Kentucky LGBTQ groups have been attempting to pass a law that will effectively ban conversion therapy statewide. Although it may be a while before this bill is able to be looked over, there is a lot of hope that it may pass.

The Youth Mental Health Protection Act, made up of HB 199 and SB 85, aims to prohibit mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy, require violations of it to be subject to board discipline, and prohibit public funds from being used for conversion therapy.

Transgender Rights and Protections

Upon receipt of a sworn statement by a licensed physician indicating that the gender of an individual born in Kentucky has been changed by surgical procedure, and a certified copy of an order of a court of competent jurisdiction changing that individual’s name, the certificate of birth of the individual can be amended to reflect the gender change.

Get Help From an Attorney

Kentucky has a long way to go before our LGBTQ friends and family are on equal footing.

Our firm prides itself on being an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ+ rights since the firm’s inception. It is – and always has been – our mission to support our community, and extend legal protections for everyone.

Contact us if you believe you have been discriminated against because of your LGBTQ status, and we will represent you to the full extent of the law.

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