Out-of-state gay marriages recognized in Kentucky... for now

3:16 PM, Feb 27, 2014   |    comments
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Louisville, Ky. (Courier-Journal) -- At least for now, Kentucky must recognize same-sex marrriages performed in states where it is legal.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn today made final a ruling issued earlier this month in which he found that Kentucky's marriage amendment and statutes violate the right to equal protection under the law.

"Those laws ... are void and unenforceable," he said in a one page order.

Earlier today, Attorney General Jack Conway's office asked Heyburn to stay enforcement of his ruling, but Heyburn did not address that motion and for now his ruling goes into effect.

Attorney Dan Canon, a lawyer for the four gay and lesbian couples who won the case, said: "We are cautiously optimistic. The order has been granted without qualification and without a stay."

Citing the importance of the case, Conway's office asked Heyburn to delay the effective date of his order for 90 days to decide whether to appeal. The motion says Gov. Steve Beshear, also a defendant, needs time as well to decide how to implement the order if it is not appealed.

The motion suggests that Conway is at least considering joining six other state attorneys general who have decided not to appeal rulings throwing out marriage bans. Those officials, all Democrats, said the laws are discriminatory and violate the right to equal protection under the law.

Conway has said he is legally bound to defend Kentucky statutes and its marriage amendment, but U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. declared Monday that state attorneys general are not obligated to defend laws they believe are discriminatory. In an interview with The New York Times, Holder said officials who have carefully studied bans on gay marriage could refuse to defend them.

In the motion filed Thursday, assistant attorneys general Clay Barkley and Brian Judy say they reserve the right to request a stay of the order pending a possible appeal.

Canon said the plaintiffs will oppose the motion for a stay. He said they are hopeful that Conway will "follow suit" with the attorney general of Virgina and those in the five other states that elected not to appeal.

Conway is taking heat from both sides in the gay marriage debate.

Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Push, who is lesbian and supports gay marriage, said in a tweet that she was disappointed with Conway for seeking the stay, while Martin Cothran, a senior policy analyst for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, accused Conway of "legal malpractice" and betraying Kentucky voters by not defending the marriage amendment more forcefully.

In his 23-page opinion Feb. 12, Heyburn said Kentucky's ban on recognizing same-sex marriages from other states deprives gays and lesbians of numerous legal protections that are available to opposite-sex couples and violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.

In part of the case that probably won't be decided for several month, two gay couples have also asked Heyburn to strike down Kentucky's ban on same-sex couples marrying in Kentucky.

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Andrew Wolfson, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal

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