U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn struck down Kentucky's ban on gay marriage on Tuesday, stating that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
However, the ruling was temporarily put on hold until it is seen by the Sixth Circuit court, which will hear appeals on August 6.
"Assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the freedom of others to any degree," Heybrun wrote in his decision. "Thus, same-sex couples' right to marry seems to be a uniquely 'free' constitutional right. Hopefully, even those opposed to or uncertain about same-sex marriage will see it that way in the future."
This is the second marriage equality decision that Heyburn has made issued this year. In February, he ruled that Kentucky was required to recognize same-sex couples who had legally married in other states.
Although the ruling is stayed pending appeal, equal rights advocates see the decision as a victory. "Today's marriage ruling makes clear that Kentucky should not be denying committed and loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of Human Rights Campaign.
There are more than 70 court cases challenging gay marriage bans in the United States and Puerto Rico. None has been upheld by a federal appeals court.