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Federal judge issues stay in Kentucky marriage equality case pending Sixth Circuit appeal

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Kentucky state sealThe federal judge who ruled in favor of same-sex couples in a challenge to Kentucky’s refusal to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed outside of the state has granted Governor Beshear’s request to extend the stay of that decision pending the outcome of the Sixth Circuit appeal.

The stay was set to expire today, but the governor’s filing had suggested that if the final decision in the appeal was against the same-sex couples, it would prove to be administratively difficult for the state and cause “chaos” in the implementation of state law. The order noted that the application of the four-factor test to grant a stay “is mixed” in this particular case, pointing to the uniformity of lower court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage recognition since the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor. The judge wrote that the state “has not made a strong showing of a likelihood of success on the merits.”

Weighing heavily on the other side, according to the order, is the Supreme Court’s issuance of a stay in Kitchen v. Herbert, the Tenth Circuit appeal in the challenge to Utah’s same-sex marriage ban. Ultimately, the court wrote, the case should be fully reviewed before a final decision is implemented:

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.

New plaintiffs who are intervening in the case at the district court level are challenging the state’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The judge had refused to preliminarily require Kentucky to let same-sex couples marry while the case is ongoing, and it’s still in the early stages, with briefing to be completed by May 28.

There is no word yet on how quickly the Sixth Circuit would hear the appeal of the judge’s earlier decision. The notice of appeal in the case was filed on Tuesday.

Thanks to Kathleen Perrin for this filing

For more information on Love v. Beshear (formerly Bourke v. Beshear) from The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, click here.


  • 1. karen in kalifornia  |  March 20, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Too bad. The born any second now new Tancor-Jesty won't have two mommies legally.

  • 2. Ragavendran  |  March 20, 2014 at 10:15 am

    I think you are confusing Tennessee with Kentucky. The Tennessee moms are still protected. As far as I know, a stay has not yet been issued by Judge Trauger in that case, Tanco v. Haslam đŸ™‚

  • 3. karen in kalifornia  |  March 20, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Whoops. Right.

  • 4. davep  |  March 20, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    …good news about that Tennessee situation – new article just posted.

  • 5. Cherylg43  |  March 20, 2014 at 10:40 am

    On 3/13/14, Gov Beshear signed a contract with a LOCAL law firm.

    My impression: Beshear is a Democrat in a difficult job. He's trying to keep peace in a red state, give people time to accept new ideas. I've been reading the local press, and comment sections are better than I expected. I've saved some really good comments.

    Total payments under Beshear's contract are not to exceed $100,000.
    The Family Foundation of Kentucky isn't happy with that level of support!
    The 6th Circuit will soon have 3 great cases — from Ohio, Kentucky and Michigan.

  • 6. Cherylg43  |  March 20, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Another local report on the KY governor's choice of a law firm— and the firms he avoided.
    "Gay-marriage appeal passes over higher-profile law firms"

    … Martin Cothran, an analyst for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, which opposes same-sex marriage, said …"We would just like to see someone in this case who is actually in favor of the law.”

  • 7. Mike in Baltimore  |  March 20, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Appears to me that the Family Foundation of Kentucky is "someone … who is actually in favor of the law.”

    I wonder why they aren't involved in the case if they actually want "someone … who is actually in favor of the law.”

    Could it be that they know they can't raise enough money?

    Or could it be that they want to blame someone when the case is lost, and they don't want to be involved themselves when the case is lost?


    Other 'reasons'?

  • 8. Michael Grabow  |  March 20, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    The Governor chose the law firm.

  • 9. Mike in Baltimore  |  March 20, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    The Family Foundation of Kentucky (FFK) was complaining about "someone … who is actually in favor of the law.”

    It is the ethical duty of ANY law firm to fight for their client. I don't think the FFK was complaining entirely about the law firm, especially with the wording of their statement being ""someone … who is actually in favor of the law.”

    If I understand the FFK's position, the FFK would be "someone … who is actually in favor of the law.”

  • 10. Tim  |  March 20, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Update on Arkansas state case: Hearing 4/17. April / May will be active months for marriage.

  • 11. Pat  |  March 20, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Great!! Things are moving forward in many states!
    I keep updating the spreadsheet at
    If you have any other deadlines or info I'm missing (I'm sure there MUST be some briefing deadlines available on many of the lawsuits) please point it out in the comments.

  • 12. Equality On TrialBriefing&hellip  |  March 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    […] district court judge struck down the non-recognition provision in February and later issued a stay pending the Sixth Circuit […]

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