Pro/Con

Jack Conway: Gay marriage ruling sound; could not fight for discrimination

March 5, 2014 

Attorney General of Kentucky Jack Conway, a Democrat, is likely to run for governor.

As attorney general, I have vowed to the people of Kentucky to uphold my duty under the law and to do what is right, even if some disagreed with me.

In evaluating how best to proceed as the commonwealth's chief lawyer in light of Judge John Heyburn's recent ruling, I have kept those promises in mind.

When Gov. Steve Beshear and I were first named as the technical defendants in this lawsuit, my duty as attorney general was to provide the commonwealth with a defense in the federal district court, and to frame the proper legal defenses. Those who passed the statutes and the voters who passed the constitutional amendment deserved that, and the Office of Attorney General performed its duty.

However, it's my duty to defend both the Kentucky Constitution and the Constitution of the United States.

The temporary stay we sought and received on Friday allowed me time to confer with my client and to consult with state leaders about my impending decision and the ramifications for the state.

I have evaluated Heyburn's legal analysis, and today am informing my client and the people of Kentucky that I am not appealing the decision and will not be seeking any further stays.

From a constitutional perspective, Heyburn got it right, and in light of other recent federal decisions, these laws will not likely survive upon appeal. We cannot waste the resources of the Office of the Attorney General pursuing a case we are unlikely to win.

There are those who believe it's my mandatory duty, regardless of my personal opinion, to continue to defend this case through the appellate process, and I have heard from many of them. However, I came to the inescapable conclusion that, if I did so, I would be defending discrimination.

That I will not do. As attorney general of Kentucky, I must draw the line when it comes to discrimination.

The United States Constitution is designed to protect everyone's rights, both the majority and the minority groups. Heyburn's decision does not tell a minister or a congregation what they must do, but in government "equal justice under law" is a different matter.

I am also mindful of those from the business community who have reached out to me in the last few days encouraging me not to appeal the decision. I agree with their assessment that discriminatory policies hamper a state's ability to attract business, create jobs and develop a modern work force.

I prayed over this decision. I appreciate those who provided counsel, especially my remarkable wife, Elizabeth. In the end, this issue is really larger than any single person and it's about placing people above politics.

For those who disagree, I can only say that I am doing what I think is right. In the final analysis, I had to make a decision that I could be proud of — for me now, and my daughters' judgment in the future.

May we all find ways to work together to build a more perfect union, and to build the future commonwealth in which we want to live, work and raise all of our families."

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