Beshear to hire $125-an-hour lawyer for gay marriage appeal after Conway bows out
Attorney General Jack Conway
Gov. Steve Beshear
FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Gov. Steve Beshear's office is seeking private lawyers to represent the state in appealing a federal judge's same-sex marriage ruling, after Kentucky's attorney general refused to continue on the case.
Attorney General Jack Conway tearfully announced Tuesday that he will not appeal U.S. District Judge John Heyburn's ruling ordering the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside Kentucky.
Minutes later, Beshear said he would appeal using outside lawyers. By the end of the day, his office had an online posting for a $125-an-hour legal contract, with bids due by Friday.
"(The issue) will be and should be ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in order to bring finality and certainty to this matter," Beshear said. "Kentucky should be a part of this process."
A Beshear spokeswoman said private lawyers would also represent the state in a broader case about whether to allow same-sex couples to get married in Kentucky.
Conway said he would not go forward with the appeal because it would be a waste of taxpayers' money to continue a case he didn't feel he could win.
In his wide-ranging announcement, he said that he had heard from many people who urged him to appeal.
"I came to the inescapable conclusion that, if I did (appeal), I would be defending discrimination," Conway said. "That, I will not do."
Conway began to cry as he told reporters he had prayed and consulted with his wife over the weekend about the decision.
Dan Canon, the lawyer for four same-sex couples suing the state over the issue, said Conway's announcement gave him "15 minutes" of hope. But Beshear's decision came as a surprise, Canon said.
"We're extremely disappointed," said Canon. "The governor is going to spend a whole lot of money defending laws that are morally indefensible."
Canon said an appeals court could delay implementation of Heyburn's ruling further as the appeal moves forward. Heyburn has already granted a stay of his decision until March 20.
Conservative groups such as the Family Foundation of Kentucky and the Kentucky Baptist Convention praised Beshear and criticized Conway.
"I don't know any attorney who quits because there's a chance he might lose," Martin Cothran, senior policy adviser for the Family Foundation, said in reference to Conway. "A good attorney does not do that."
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, called Conway's decision "a dereliction of duty" and said it could lead to Kentucky being forced to honor other states' laws more regularly.
"Colorado has legalized marijuana. Why would that not be the next issue in Kentucky?" Chitwood said. "We know we can't count on Jack Conway to defend us."