Kentuckians should not have gay marriage "forced on us" by a federal court ruling, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday, even as opponents of the senator blamed him for the decision.
McConnell, calling himself a "traditionalist" who opposes same-sex marriage, was critical of a federal judge's decision to strike down parts of a 1998 Kentucky law and a 2004 amendment to the Kentucky Constitution that defined marriage as being between a man and a women.
"I will continue to support traditional marriage and fight to make sure that Kentuckians define marriage as we see fit and never have a definition forced on us by interests outside of our state," McConnell said.
But opponents of McConnell were quick to note that U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II was appointed by President George H.W. Bush on the recommendation of McConnell, calling attention to Heyburn's time as general counsel when McConnell was Jefferson County judge-executive in the early 1980s.
Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, who is challenging McConnell in this year's Republican primary, said it was "no surprise" McConnell was a part of Heyburn's ascent to the federal bench.
"I'm deeply disappointed in Judge Heyburn's decision to overturn Kentucky's right to determine the definition of marriage within its own borders," Bevin said. "This type of judicial activism hurts America's democratic process."
The Madison Project, a Tea Party fundraising group backing Bevin over McConnell, went further, sending out a news release that said "a McConnell crony forces gay marriage on Kentucky."
"Thanks to McConnell, Kentucky is being subjected to the tyranny of the liberal agenda without a vote," Madison Project policy director Daniel Horowitz said.
Heyburn, ruling in favor of four same-sex Kentucky couples who filed suit last year, said Kentucky must recognize gay marriages performed in other states.
In his statement, McConnell noted that 75 percent of Kentuckians voted in favor of the 2004 constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage.
"I am a traditionalist and support that position, but regardless of one's personal view on the issue, we should be able to agree that only the people of Kentucky, through the legislative process, should have the authority to change the law, not the courts," McConnell said.
A Bluegrass Poll released last week found that 55 percent of Kentucky voters oppose same-sex marriage, compared with 35 percent who support allowing gays and lesbians to marry in Kentucky. Ten percent weren't sure.
Alison Lundergan Grimes, the likely Democratic challenger to McConnell, has previously expressed support for same-sex marriage, noting that she and her husband have been married for seven years. "I want to make sure all individuals have that same opportunity," she told the Herald-Leader in November.
Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.