Mark Phariss, left, clutches the hand of partner Victor Holmes, right, as they talk to the media outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 12, 2014.
Eric Gay/AP

Kentucky AG bows out of marriage case

Just last week, a federal judge in Kentucky issued a final ruling that requires the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. Kentucky’s constitutional amendment on the issue, Judge John Heyburn ruled, violates state residents the right to equal protection under the law.
 
The court’s decision would ordinarily fall to the state Attorney General’s office to appeal in order to defend state law, but as it turns out, that’s not going to happen.
Kentucky will hire outside attorneys to appeal a federal judge’s ruling requiring Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages from outside the state, Gov. Steve Beshear said Tuesday.
 
His announcement came minutes after a tearful Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said his office will not appeal the ruling, calling it a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Conway told reporters he prayed over what to do and decided to put “people over politics.” He added, “I can only say that I’m doing what I think is right.”
 
Coincidentally, he’s doing what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder thinks is right, too.
 
As Adam Serwer reported last week:
Attorney General Eric Holder urged a gathering of state attorneys general Tuesday in Washington not to defend state bans on same-sex marriage.
 
“We must endeavor – in all of our efforts – to uphold and advance the values that once led our forebears to declare unequivocally that all are created equal and entitled to equal opportunity,” Holder said. “Our ideals are continually advanced as our justice systems – and our Union – are strengthened; and as social science, human experience, legislation, and judicial decisions expand the circle of those who are entitled to the protections and rights enumerated by the Constitution.”
Holder’s guidance was informal – the U.S. Attorney General isn’t in a position to instruct his state counterparts on how (or whether) to defend state laws – but nevertheless helped reinforce the seriousness of the issue.
 
Before today, according to Matt Apuzzo’s recent reporting, six state attorneys general – all Democrats – have “refused to defend” state bans on same-sex marriage. Kentucky’s Conway today becomes the seventh.
 

Civil Rights, Gay Rights, Jack Conway, Kentucky and Marriage Equality

Kentucky AG bows out of marriage case