News briefs from around Kentucky at 1:58 a.m. EST

Thursday, February 13, 2014

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As suits multiply, gay-marriage backers win in Ky.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, part of an unprecedented barrage of marriage-equality lawsuits in states where voters have overwhelmingly opposed recognition of gay and lesbian couples.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II struck down part of the gay-marriage ban that Kentuckians had approved in 2004, saying it treated gays and lesbians “in a way that demeans them.”

“Assigning a religious or traditional rationale for a law does not make it constitutional when that law discriminates against a class of people without other reasons,” wrote Heyburn, an appointee of Republican President George H.W. Bush.

His decision coincided with legal attacks Wednesday on gay-marriage bans in three other socially conservative states - Texas, Louisiana and Missouri - and was issued just a few weeks after federal judges in Utah and Oklahoma struck down the voter-approved bans in those states.

According to the advocacy group Freedom to Marry, there are now 45 pending marriage-equality cases in 24 of the 33 states that do not allow same-sex marriage. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have legalized such unions, while three other states - Colorado, Nevada and Oregon - grant marriage-like rights though civil unions or domestic partnerships.

The stage for the current wave of litigation was set by the U.S. Supreme Court last June, when it ordered the federal government to recognize valid same-sex marriages, but stopped short of striking down state laws banning them. Gay-rights activists hope that one or more of the lawsuits filed since June or planned for the near future will reach the high court and lead to nationwide legalization.

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Sinkhole swallows cars at Corvette Museum in Ky.

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) - It was a sight to make a classic car lover weep: A gaping sinkhole opened beneath the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky and swallowed eight prized cars like they were toys, piling them in a heap amid loose dirt and concrete fragments.

It happened early Wednesday morning while the attraction dedicated to the classic American sports car was closed to visitors.

“They’re all just kind of nose down in the bottom of the hole,” said Western Kentucky University engineering professor Matt Dettman, part of a team brought in to assess the damage and stability of the surrounding area.

Six of the cars were owned by the museum and two - a 1993 ZR-1 Spyder and a 2009 ZR1 Blue Devil - were on loan from General Motors, said museum spokeswoman Katie Frassinelli.

The other cars damaged were a 1962 black Corvette, a 1984 PPG Pace Car, a 1992 White 1 Millionth Corvette, a 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Corvette, a 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette and a 2009 white 1.5 Millionth Corvette.

“All of these have a unique story behind them,” said museum executive director Wendell Strode. “They’re special.”

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