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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 7 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 10
Kentucky AG won't appeal marriage ruling - Governor to hire outside lawyer
Section One
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Kentucky AG won't appeal marriage ruling - Governor to hire outside lawyer

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced on March 4 that he will not appeal a federal court ruling ordering the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

Conway said at a news conference that if he appealed, 'I would be defending discrimination. That I will not do. As Attorney General of Kentucky, I must draw the line when it comes to discrimination.'

The judge in the case 'got it right,' Conway said, 'and in light of other recent federal decisions, these laws will not likely survive upon appeal. We cannot waste the resources of the Office of the Attorney General pursuing a case we are unlikely to win.'

Conway's decision earned praise from Gay rights supporters and fellow Democrats.

'Today, Attorney General Conway made a courageous decision to stand up for equality in Kentucky and against a discriminatory law' Democratic State Representative John Yarmuth said. 'He gave this case the thorough analysis it required, and his conclusion will place him and our Commonwealth on the right side of history.'

Conway joins six other state attorneys general who have declined to defend anti-Gay laws when they are challenged in court. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder advised state officials on February 24 that they are not obligated to defend such laws if they believe them to be discriminatory.

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II ruled on February 12 that Kentucky law refusing legal recognition for out-of-state same-sex marriages violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. On February 27 the judge gave Kentucky 21 days to implement his decision.

Only moments after Conway's announcement, Kentucky Governor Steve Bashear, also a Democrat, said he would hire outside attorneys to pursue the appeal if Conway would not.

Bashear added that he will seek a stay of Heyburn's order pending appeal because, 'without a stay in place, the opportunity for legal chaos is real. Other Kentucky courts may reach different and conflicting decisions.'

The governor also noted that the bigger question of whether states can prohibit same-sex marriages is being litigated in many states and that Heyburn's order did not address the issue.

Beshear said he expects the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide the question.

'The people of this country need to know what the rules will be going forward. Kentucky should be part of this process,' he added.

Meanwhile, Heyburn will also hear a separate suit seeking to overturn Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriages. That case is expected to be heard this summer.

Bashear has been Governor of Kentucky since 2007, and will be term-limited out of office in 2015. In 2013 he had the dubious distinction of being named one of the 18 'Worst Governors in America' by CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), who alleged that Bashear had 'allowed representatives of the coal industry to exert improper influence over official appointments.'

Conway is expected to be a candidate to replace him.

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