Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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February 28, 2014

Judge grants 21-day delay on same-sex marriages

FRANKFORT — U.S. District Judge John Heyburn on Friday agreed to allow Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and Gov. Steve Beshear three weeks to implement his order entered on Thursday requiring Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Heyburn granted Conway’s motion for a stay for that purpose — but only until March 20 and not the 90 days requested by Conway.

Heyburn’s latest ruling says that Conway’s motion “makes only one argument: that the stay is necessary to allow Defendant to provide appropriate advice to state and local officials for implementation of the Order.” It says Conway’s motion doesn’t specify why he needed and requested 90 days.

In granting the stay, Heyburn notes that the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay in a similar Utah case in which lower courts declined to issue one.

“The Supreme Court’s action is a powerful message, perhaps intended for reading beyond Utah,” Heyburn writes while noting differences in the two cases. The Utah case involves the issuance of marriage certificates while Heyburn’s order only governs the recognition of valid same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Additionally, Heyburn writes, the state of Utah immediately announced its intention to appeal the original ruling while Conway’s motion “merely asks for reasonable time to implement the Order. The Court concludes that a limited stay allows the state proper time to administratively prepare for compliance with the Order.”

 During a Friday afternoon hearing, a Conway Deputy Attorney General argued the state must confer with local officials about how Heyburn’s order is to be implemented consistently across all 120 counties.

 An attorney for the same-sex plaintiffs said her clients will be harmed by the delay, which puts on hold such things as joint federal income tax filings, name changes and adoptions.

Heyburn’s Thursday order throws out Kentucky’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. It does not require Kentucky to perform such marriages but Heyburn also granted a motion for other same-sex couples who seek such an order to join the original suit so that might change.

But for now, Heyburn’s order says that to the extent Kentucky law and Section 233A of the Kentucky Constitution “deny validly married same-sex couples equal recognition and benefits under Kentucky and federal law, those laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and they are void and unenforceable.”

The ruling overturns parts of a 1998 law and a 2004 constitutional amendment (Sec. 233A) which define marriage as “between one man and one woman.”

Conway may still appeal the ruling but Heyburn’s Friday order granting the stay says Conway’s motion makes no argument that the state “will appeal or that it is likely to succeed on any appeal.”

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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