Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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March 13, 2014

UPDATE: Governor hires Ashland firm in gay marriage case

LOUISVILLE — Gov. Steve Beshear on Thursday signed a $100,000 contract with a private law firm to represent him in appealing a judge’s order for Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.

Beshear announced the deal with the 11-member Ashland firm of VanAntwerp, Monge, Jones, Edwards & McCann, which also has an office in Frankfort.

State Attorney General Jack Conway announced he wouldn’t appeal the decision that overturned parts of a 2004 state constitutional amendment barring recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. That’s when Beshear stepped in, disagreeing with his fellow Democrat about the appeal.

Unless a federal appeals court halts U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn’s ruling, 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 on March 20.

The contract with the law firm, obtained via an open records request by The Associated Press, limits the firm’s work to same-sex marriages cases in Kentucky and expires June 30. But it does allow the governor to renew the deal for two years at a time.

Under the terms of the contract, partners in the firm may be paid $125 an hour, associates can make $90 an hour and paralegals may make $40 an hour. Total payments under the contract are not to exceed $100,000.

The law firm has a long list of corporate and public clients, including AK Steel, Oklahoma-based oil and gas company Chesapeake Appalachia, Kings Daughter Medical Center, the Boyd County Board of Education and the Ashland Board of Education.

An email message left for the law firm was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

The hiring comes a week after Conway said that appealing the case would be “defending discrimination.”

Moments later that day, Beshear said in a written statement that the potential for “legal chaos is real” if a delay is not granted while the case is appealed. He noted that litigation over gay marriage is pending in many other states and that the issue ultimately should be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Along with the appeal, Beshear and the state are defendants in a federal lawsuit seeking to force Kentucky to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That case is also pending before Heyburn, who is expected to rule by summer.

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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