In February, a federal judge ruled that Kentucky must recognize same-sex couples’ marriages from other states, a decision that was to take effect Thursday. But on Wednesday, Judge John Heyburn stayed his decision, noting that Gov. Steve Beshear (D) was appealing the ruling and pointing out that the process should play out through the Court system before the paradigm shifts:
[T]he applicant argues that avoiding chaos and uncertainty is in the public’s best
interest. However, as the Court previously noted, the public interest is twofold: that the Constitution be upheld, and that changes in the law be implemented consistently and without undue confusion. The Court has concerns about implementing an order which has dramatic effects, and then having that order reversed, which is one possibility. Under such circumstances, rights once granted could be cast in doubt. […]
Perhaps it is difficult for Plaintiffs to understand how rights won can be delayed. It is a truth that our judicial system can act with stunning quickness, as this Court has; and then with sometimes maddening slowness. One judge may decide a case, but ultimately others have a final say. It is the entire process, however, which gives our judicial system and our judges such high credibility and acceptance. This is the way of our Constitution. It is that belief which ultimately informs the Court’s decision to grant a stay. It is best that these momentous changes occur upon full review, rather than risk premature implementation or confusing changes. That does not serve anyone well.
Though Kentucky’s case addresses marriages from other states specifically, it thus follows the course of the other marriage equality rulings in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Texas that have been stayed pending appeal. No appeals court has yet issued a ruling on any of the state marriage cases that have advanced since the Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act last summer.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D) announced earlier this month that he would not defend the state’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages, but Beshear has since hired outside counsel to continue the case. Conway told HuffPost Live this week that he didn’t think continuing to defend the ban was a responsible use of taxpayer resources. Shortly after last month’s ruling, two same-sex couples filed a new suit seeking the right to marry within the state of Kentucky.