Steve Beshear: Stay on marriage ruling needed to avoid legal chaos

March 5, 2014 

Gov. Steve Beshear

Attorney General Jack Conway has advised me that he will no longer represent the commonwealth in Bourke vs. Beshear.

The state will hire other counsel to represent it in this case, and will appeal Judge .John Heyburn's decision to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and ask the court to enter a stay pending appeal.

The question of whether state constitutional provisions prohibiting same-sex marriage violate the U.S. Constitution is being litigated across the country.

Here in Kentucky, Heyburn has ruled that Kentucky's constitutional provision does so to the extent that same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere are not recognized in Kentucky. Heyburn also currently has under consideration the broader question of whether Kentucky's provision prohibiting same-sex marriage in Kentucky violates the U.S. Constitution, and I anticipate that decision in the near future.

Both of these issues, as well as similar issues being litigated in other parts of the country, will be and should be ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in order to bring finality and certainty to this matter.

The people of this country need to know what the rules will be going forward. Kentucky should be a part of this process.

In every other appeal currently in process, a stay has been entered maintaining the status quo until a final decision is reached on appeal. The reason is obvious. Without a stay in place, the opportunity for legal chaos is real.

Other Kentucky courts may reach different and conflicting decisions. There is already a lawsuit underway in Franklin Circuit Court, and other lawsuits in state and federal courts are possible.

Employers, health-care providers, governmental agencies and others faced with changing rules need a clear and certain roadmap. Also, people may take action based on this decision only to be placed at a disadvantage should a higher court reverse the decision.

I understand and respect the deep and strong emotions and sincere beliefs of Kentuckians on both sides of this issue, but all Kentuckians deserve an orderly process that will bring certainty and finality to this important matter.

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