FRANKFORT, KY, March 18, 2014 ( – Kentucky is shaping up to be new territory in the fight for marriage.

On March 4, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat, said that he would not appeal District Judge John Heyburn's decision that the state should accept the “marriages” of four couples who were “wedded” in other states but live in Kentucky. This week, the state's governor formally appealed the decision to the 6th Circuit Court, days after hiring a private law firm to defend a state statute and a constitutional amendment, both defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Gov. Steve Beshear, who is a Democrat, disagreed sharply with the decision of Conway to not defend the state's 1998 law and 2004 constitutional amendment. He has a contract to pay as much as $100,000 to the law firm. Conway, who said he could not in good conscience defend the state law, said he believed “we cannot waste the resources of the office of the attorney general pursuing a case we are unlikely to win.”


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In light of Conway's decision, the state Senate has passed legislation allowing the Senate President or the House Speaker to get involved in court if the attorney general or governor choose to not defend a state law or portions of the state's Constitution. 

Heyburn's decision is on hold until Friday, but the hold will expire unless the judge chooses to keep it in place or the 6th Circuit does not accept Beshear's official appeal, which took place earlier today. On Friday, Beshear formally asked Heyburn to keep his hold in place, without which same-sex couples would begin receiving marriage licenses. 

One of the attorneys, Leigh Gross Latherow, wrote that “requiring administrative agencies to implement these rules and granting marital status recognition to same-sex couples, only to be invalidated upon reversal by the Court of Appeal,” will be problematic for all, “including the prevailing parties.” She wrote that with so many states seeing different results, each state should wait until the Supreme Court decides on same-sex “marriage.”

Conway is one of several state-level attorneys general choosing to not defend state laws and constitutional amendments across the country.


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