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Marriage Equality

Kentucky’s Gov. Owes $2M for Marriage Equality Fight

Kentucky’s Gov. Owes $2M for Marriage Equality Fight

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin

He may have granted Kim Davis's Christmas wish, but Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin still faces a hefty bill to pay the attorneys who struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. 

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Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin could be ordered to pay more than $2 million to the team of attorneys who represented the same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in the state's case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Courier-Journal reports that as the state's top lawmaker, Bevin has inherited a bill of $2,091,297 from the nine-lawyer team that successfully argued for the dissolution of Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage.

Former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat who hired outside counsel to defend the state's ban when his own attorney general refused to do so, had been negotiating with the pro-equality attorneys about the precise amount owed them before Bevin was elected. In November, Beshear offered to settle with the attorneys for "barely more than a quarter of what they were seeking," reports the Courier-Journal. Pro-equality attorney Laura Landenwich called Beshear's settlement offer of $581,000 "infuriating."

The Courier-Journal notes that federal law requires the losing side in such a civil rights case to pay the winning side's "legal fees in an amount the courts decide is reasonable."

But what constitutes a "reasonable" amount has been hotly contested, even before the far-right Bevin took office and promptly removed all county clerks's names from marriage licenses, in a move the anti-LGBT Liberty Counsel called "a wonderful Christmas gift to Kim Davis."

The pro-equality attorneys contend that they argued an "exceedingly novel and complex" case, according to the Courier-Journal, and as such are entitled to a 75 percent "bonus" on top of the $1,125,929 they requested in direct legal fees.

The Kentucky case was ultimately consolidated with several others to become Obergefell v. Hodges, which resulted in June's landmark Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex couples nationwide have a constitutional right to marry.

Half of the four states whose marriage equality challenges made it to the Supreme Court this year have already settled with the attorneys who successfully struck down those bans. The case out of Ohio, which provided the namesake for the consolidated cases, resulted in a $1.3 million payment to pro-equality attorneys, according to the Courier-Journal. Michigan's Republican governor was ordered to pay $1.9 million to the winning attorneys who challenged his state's ban on marriage equality. The lead counsel representing gay and lesbian plaintiffs in Tennessee has asked the state to pay $2.3 million in fees.

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Sunnivie Brydum

Sunnivie is the managing editor of The Advocate, and an award-winning journalist whose passion is covering the politics of equality and elevating the unheard stories of our community. Originally from Colorado, she and her spouse now live in Los Angeles, along with their three fur-children: dogs Luna and Cassie Doodle, and "Meow Button" Tilly.
Sunnivie is the managing editor of The Advocate, and an award-winning journalist whose passion is covering the politics of equality and elevating the unheard stories of our community. Originally from Colorado, she and her spouse now live in Los Angeles, along with their three fur-children: dogs Luna and Cassie Doodle, and "Meow Button" Tilly.