The attorney general of Kentucky announced today that he will not appeal a February ruling that declared Kentucky must recognize legally valid same-sex marriages performed in other states, reports the Associated Press.
Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat, announced today that he will not appeal district judge John G. Heyburn's February 12 ruling declaring the state's prohibition of same-sex marriage unconstitutional, implying that he will also allow a separate federal ruling requiring the state to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions to take effect March 20.
"Judge Heyburn got it right," said Conway in his office in Frankfort, Ky., according to Louisville's Courier-Journal. The attorney general reportedly became emotional as he delivered his remarks, noting that he had prayed about the issue and believes he is doing what is right, fulfilling his sworn duty to uphold both the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions.
"It's about placing people over politics," he told the Courier-Journal. Defending the state law as it exists now would "be defending discrimination," he said. "And that I will not do."
Just minutes after Conway's announcement broke, Kentucky's Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, announced that he will enlist outside counsel to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage, according to the AP. The governor warned that without a stay on the rulings, the possibility for "legal chaos is real."
"Other Kentucky courts may reach different and conflicting decisions," Beshear said. "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."
Heyburn's February 12 ruling declared Kentucky's state constitutional amendment forbidding same-sex marriage to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution. A subsequent ruling from another federal judge February 27 gave the state until March 20 to appeal or begin recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal, overturning a voter-approved ban on recognizing such unions.
Even with the conflicting legal opinions from the state's two top-ranking officials, the AP reports that same-sex couples living in Kentucky who were legally married in other states or countries may file joint state tax returns, legally change their names, and have both parents' names listed on birth certificates — unless a higher court issues a stay on that decision.
Watch Conway's remarks at Tuesday morning's press conference below, via Louisville's WLKY.