Forced to seek outside counsel after attorney general says he won't "defend discrimination"
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said Tuesday that his office would hire outside counsel to appeal a court ruling that the state must recognize same-sex marriages performed outside Kentucky, just moments after the state attorney general, a fellow Democrat, said he would no longer defend the ban.
Jack Conway, Kentucky’s attorney general, said Tuesday that if he appealed the recent ruling, he would be forced to defend discrimination. “That I will not do,” he said in a statement. “As Attorney General of Kentucky, I must draw the line when it comes to discrimination.”
Beshear promptly announced that his office would continue the appeal, the Associated Press reports, saying there would be “legal chaos” if the courts don’t delay any changes until after an appeal. “Employers, health care providers, governmental agencies and others faced with changing rules need a clear and certain roadmap,” Beshear said. “Also, people may take action based on this decision only to be placed at a disadvantage should a higher court reverse the decision.”
The rapid-fire action and reaction underscored how states are struggling to respond to a wave of court decisions striking down same-sex marriage bans of various kinds. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently said state attorneys general don’t have to defend gay-marriage bans if they view them as discriminatory.
The circumstances are similar to Pennsylvania, where the state’s Democratic attorney general declined to defend the state’s gay marriage ban in a lawsuit, leading the Republican governor to take up the case.
The federal judge in the Kentucky case ruled last month that the state’s voter-approved ban on recognizing same-sex marriages violates the constitution, and the judge last week gave the state 21 days to implement his ruling that same-sex unions performed out of state be recognized in Kentucky.