On Feb. 27 a federal judge gave Kentucky 21 days to overturn a ban on acknowledging same-sex marriage. Since then, Kentucky has decided to fight against gay marriage recognition. Governor of Kentucky, Steve Beshear (D) announced today that the state is going to hire outside attorneys to appeal the federal mandate to acknowledge same-sex marriages that were performed out of the state. The appeal will be taken to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Beshear made his announcement moments after Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D) said that he would not make the appeal against Judge John Heyburn’s decision in an emotional press conference. Conway said that Heyburn made the right decision and that he would not defend the Kentucky ban in any additional legal battles on the issue.
Heyburn made his ruling after two couples filed a lawsuit after legally being married elsewhere and having to fight the state of Kentucky for recognition. Heyburn found that the ban against gay marriage recognition violated the constitutional guarantee that grants equal protection under the law. Heyburn said that Kentucky’s ban “demeans” the lesbian and gay community by treating them differently.
The ruling does not give same-sex couples the ability to marry legally in Kentucky, but simply enforces recognition to same-sex couples that were married outside of the state. Conway fully supports the decision and said he will not defend discrimination by appealing the decision in court. Heyburn hopes to rule on gay marriage licenses on the state by the summer.
However, Beshear and Kentucky continue to fight against the gay marriage recognition. Beshear is asking for a delay in enforcement while the decision is being appealed because it could result in “legal chaos.” If a delay is not granted, the state must allow those involved in a same-sex marriage to attain the same benefits as other married couples and be permitted to change their names on official documents.
Beshear defended the delay by saying that clear-cut rules and guidelines are needed on how companies and organizations should handle these changes. He also said that people who make the changes could have drawbacks if “a higher court reverses the decision.”
Conway said that in this case he was making the decision that he believes is right and said he is “placing people above politics” even if people do not agree with him. Kentucky voted overwhelmingly in 2004 to uphold the ban on same-sex marriage recognition and Conway has received some backlash for his statements. President of the Conservative Family Research Council, Tony Perkins said that Conway’s job was not to let his “personal ideology” get in the way of maintaining Kentucky’s constitution and laws. Perkins said that he was going against what Kentucky voters believe.
After U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. announced last month that state attorney generals did not have to protect laws that they felt were discriminatory, Conway joins the ranks with Oregon, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia attorney generals who are not defending anti-gay regulations. This decision does create a intraparty dispute in the state, as Governor Beshear and Kentucky move forward in the fight against gay marriage recognition.
By Rebecca Hofland