Gov. Steve Beshear will appeal a ruling by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II requiring the state to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.
If Heyburn’s ruling stands, it would overturn provisions of a 2004 state constitutional amendment that was approved by a large majority of Kentucky voters as well as a 1998 statute that also defines marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman.
Beshear’s announcement came late Tuesday morning, soon after state Attorney General Jack Conway said he would not appeal Heyburn’s ruling.
It also came four days after Heyburn approved a stay giving the state 21 days to either implement his decision or appeal.
“General Conway has advised me that he will no longer represent the Commonwealth in Bourke vs. Beshear.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 said in his statement.
Two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Luke Barlowe and Jim Meade of Bardstown, who were married in Iowa in 2009.
After the announcement about Conway’s decision, Barlowe told the Standard, “Jim and I are cautiously optimistic, but not sure what the governor is trying to do. We will just have to wait and see,” he said.
Moments later, while waiting for a meeting of the Bardstown-Nelson County Commission on Human Rights to begin, Barlowe, a member of the commission, said he had heard that Beshear intended to appeal using independent counsel.
“Well, I’m very disappointed,” Barlowe said.
He said he expects the case will now go to the U.S. Circuit Court “and how long will that take?” he asked.
Barlowe said he and Meade have been a couple for 45 years.
“I emailed Jack Conway and told him that Jim and I had been together longer than he has been alive, which is true,” he said.
Conway, 45, is considered a potential Democratic candidate for governor in 2015.
Beshear explained in his statement that Heyburn’s decision has national implications and should be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court “in order to bring finality and certainty to this matter. The people of this country need to know what the rules will be going forward. Kentucky should be a part of this process,” he said.
“In every other appeal currently in process, a stay has been entered maintaining the status quo until a final decision is reached on appeal. The reason is obvious. Without a stay in place, the opportunity for legal chaos is real,” Beshear said. “Other Kentucky courts may reach different and conflicting decisions. There is already a lawsuit under way in Franklin Circuit Court, and other lawsuits in state and federal courts are possible. Employers, health care providers, governmental agencies and others faced with changing rules need a clear and certain roadmap. Also, people may take action based on this decision only to be placed at a disadvantage should a higher court reverse the decision.”
Meade and Barlowe are personally aware of the potential for legal chaos. Last Friday, they went to the Nelson Circuit Clerk’s Office to get their names changed on their driver’s licenses to hyphenated forms of both spouses’ names but were told they couldn’t because the judge’s decision might be appealed. Later, they learned Heyburn had issued a stay of his order to implement his ruling.