LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday asked a federal judge to delay the effective date of his ruling allowing state recognition of same-sex marriages while he appeals the case.
Private attorneys representing Beshear filed the request Friday afternoon, about 24 hours after they were hired to take the case.
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn overturned parts of Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban and set an effective date for his ruling of March 20. If Heyburn's ruling stands, the state will have to start allowing same-sex couples to change their names on official identifications and documents and obtain any other benefits of a married couple in Kentucky.
Attorney Leigh Gross Latherow wrote in a motion that halting implementation of Heyburn's decision would allow appeals courts and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court to sort out what the law is. Latherow said the laws surrounding the issues in the suit are unsettled and not definitively established.
"Requiring administrative agencies to implement these rules and granting marital status recognition to same-sex couples, only to be invalidated upon reversal by the Court of Appeal will cause chaos and irreparable and real harm to all concerned, including the prevailing parties," Latherow said. "The only way to eliminate the risk of this irreparable harm is to maintain the status quo."
Latherow wrote that if Heyburn did not rule by Tuesday, an appeal would be filed with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Beshear hired a private law firm on Thursday to handle the appeal, signing a contract with a maximum payment of $100,000. Attorney General Jack Conway opted not to appeal the decision that overturned parts of a 2004 state constitutional amendment barring recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Conway said that appealing the case would be "defending discrimination.
That's when Beshear stepped in, disagreeing with his fellow Democrat about the appeal.
Beshear's request for a stay came hours after a federal judge in Tennessee issued an injunction suspending that state's same-sex marriage ban for three couples married elsewhere. Multiple judges have overturned voter-approved bans in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia.
At least 17 states, mostly in the Northeast, and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage. Others may soon follow depending on how federal appeals courts, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court, rule on state bans that have been overturned.
Six federal judges have issued pro-gay-marriage rulings since the Supreme Court's decision last June that struck down part of the federal anti-gay-marriage law. The latest came last week in Texas.
Heyburn issued a Feb. 12 opinion that Kentucky's ban on recognizing same-sex marriages violated the Constitution's equal-protection clause because it treated "gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them."
Recently, a federal judge in Texas down that state's gay marriage ban but immediately delayed the implementation of his ruling pending appeals by the state. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court put a hold on a decision in Utah recognizing same-sex marriages.
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