Kentucky governor vows gay marriage appeal
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (AP) — The governor of Kentucky said Tuesday the state will hire outside attorneys to appeal a judge’s decision granting legal recognition to same-sex couples married in other states and countries after the attorney general announced that he would not pursue the case further.
The split legal decisions from two Democrats come four days after a federal judge gave the socially conservative southern state 21 days to implement a ruling overturning a voter-imposed ban on recognizing same-sex unions.
The disagreement comes against the backdrop of similar rulings or actions in several other states where same-sex couples have long fought for the right to marry. Gay marriage advocates have enjoyed a stunning series of legal victories as judges have overturned voter-approved bans in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia.
At least 17 states, mostly in the Northeast, and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage. Others may soon follow depending on how federal appeals courts, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court, rule on state bans that have been overturned.
Six federal judges have issued pro-gay-marriage rulings since the Supreme Court’s decision last June that struck down part of the federal anti-gay-marriage law. The latest came last week in Texas.
On Tuesday, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said at a news conference that he decided he would not appeal the case because “I would be defending discrimination. That I will not do.”
Minutes later, Gov. Steve Beshear said the state would go through with the appeal without Conway. In a written statement, the governor said the potential for “legal chaos is real” if a delay is not issued in the case while it is appealed.
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn issued a Feb. 12 opinion that Kentucky’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages violated the Constitution’s equal-protection clause because it treated “gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them.”
The decision arose from a lawsuit filed by two couples who were married in other states or countries over the past 10 years. The couples sought to force the state to recognize their unions as legal. Heyburn’s ruling does not require the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples; that is the subject of a separate, but related lawsuit. Heyburn expects to rule on that issue by summer.
Unless a higher court steps in and stops enforcement of the ruling, the state will have to allow same-sex couples married outside the state to change their names on official identifications and documents and obtain any other benefits of a married couple in Kentucky.
Kentucky’s constitutional ban was approved by voters in 2004 and included the out-of-state clause.
Last week, a federal judge in Texas down that state’s gay marriage ban but immediately delayed the implementation of his ruling pending appeals by the state.
In January, the U.S. Supreme Court put a hold on a decision in Utah recognizing same-sex marriages.
A group of current and former Republican lawmakers say they support making same-sex marriage legal in Utah and Oklahoma because it’s consistent with Western conservative values of freedom and liberty. They plan to file a friend of the court brief Tuesday to a federal appeals court in Denver that is reviewing same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma.
A draft provided to The Associated Press shows they cite beliefs from former President Ronald Reagan.
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