Councilwoman weighs in on gay marriage debate; talks taxpayer costs


by Brooke Hasch

Posted on March 4, 2014 at 11:10 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 5 at 12:56 AM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WHAS) -- Kentucky's governor and attorney general have agreed to disagree.

Attorney General Jack Conway announced Tuesday morning he will not appeal a federal judge's ruling, legally recognizing same-sex marriages performed out of state. Minutes later, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear said he'll find new representation for the state, so he can appeal the decision. It'll cost taxpayers a minimum of $125 an hour, according to new solicitation forms from the governor requesting an attorney.

While some are focused on the financial costs of this appeal, others say the physical and emotional toll is far greater.

"It's about placing people over politics. For those who disagree, I can only say I'm doing what I feel is right," Conway said.

His decision not to appeal the same-sex marriage ruling was met with great support from people in the LGBT community, including Louisville councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh.

"Discrimination is something we need to be in the business of getting rid of, not perpetuating, not promoting," Ward-Pugh said.

The councilwoman for the 9th district married her longtime partner of 14 years last September, in Maryland, hoping the two would soon be recognized in their own state.
Ward-Pugh says she was thrilled to hear Conway's announcement, and for a moment, thought it was a collective decision with the governor.

"I was heartened, that he was really a progressive governor. He really gets it on every level, until today," Ward-Pugh said.

Just 15 minutes after Conway's announcement, Beshear released his own statement, adding a dramatic twist to the case.

"General Conway has advised me that he will no longer represent the Commonwealth in Bourke vs. Beshear.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 Heyburn's decision to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and ask the court to enter a stay pending appeal," Beshear stated.

"To hire outside attorneys, with tax payer money, it's disappointing. It's astonishing really," Ward-Pugh said.

Beshear's decision wasn't a surprise to conservatives in Frankfort, who say his split from Conway was necessary to uphold the people's vote.

"'We had a lawyer and he quit after the first fight. A good attorney doesn't do that," Martin Cothran, with the Family Foundation of Kentucky said.

Acknowledging that Kentuckians voted overwhelmingly to ban recognition of gay marriage, Conway said it's the U.S. Constitution’s promise of equal protection of the law that will ultimately prevail.

"From a Constitutional perspective, Judge Heyburn got it right. And in light of other recent federal decisions, these laws will likely not survive an appeal," Conway said.

UofL Professor of Constitutional and Civil Rights Sam Marcosson says Kentucky is not the only state making its case for an appeal of same-sex marriage laws. He says only one would have to make it to the Supreme Court before we could see a nationwide ruling.

"We're in that period where a year or two from now, the Supreme Court will have to confront the issue of whether the states are required to recognize on an equal basis--same sex marriage. Then Kentucky's 2004 marriage amendment could very well be directly at stake and be decided once and for all by the U.S. Supreme Court," Marcosson said.

To view the document outlining the costs click here.