Same-Sex Marriages Are Recognized in Kentucky at the Moment. Here’s What That Means.

 Update 5:26 p.m.: Conway’s Statement

Here’s word from Attorney General Jack Conway:  “I received Judge Heyburn’s final order and am in the process of reviewing it.  I have 30 days to determine whether or not to file an appeal in this case, which is why I asked Judge Heyburn for a stay of his order this morning.    I will be determining promptly, in consultation with Gov. Beshear, whether or not to file an appeal in this case.”

Update 5 p.m.: What This All May Mean

The federal judge’s final opinion on Thursday means that—at least at the moment—same-sex couples with marriages recognized elsewhere have  all the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as opposite-sex married couples” in Kentucky, a plaintiffs’ attorney said.

What the minutia of that really is is going to take some time to sort out,” added the attorney, Dan Canon.

Kentuckians in recognized same-sex marriages can “presumably” have hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights if their spouse died, parental rights if their spouse has a child and the ability to jointly file taxes, Canon said. 

As noted below, the state has 30 days to appeal. Attorney General Jack Conway’s office also asked for a 90-day stay on U.S. District Judge John Heyburn’s opinion becoming effective. The judge has not yet made a decision on the stay. A plaintiffs’ attorney said they’ll challenge the motion for a stay.

A conference is scheduled for Friday. Canon said he expects the question of the state’s request for a delay to be taken up then. Could whatever recognition presumably granted by Thursday’s final opinion be taken back retroactively, if the case is stayed or appealed? 

“I don’t know the precise answer to your question,” Canon said on Thursday. “I think that at this point it’s going to be tough to put the genie back in the bottle, but we don’t know what the larger implications of a stay or an appeal, frankly, would be on the couples that have acted on the final order today and tomorrow.”

Conway is expected to issue a statement soon, a spokeswoman said.

Update 1:23 p.m.: Denial of Valid Marriages ‘Void’

For the moment, out-of-state same-sex marriages must be recognized by Kentucky. 

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn has issued the final order on out-of-state same-sex marriages in Kentucky. Heyburn writes that Kentucky’s denial of valid married same-sex couples equal recognition and benefits “violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment and are “void and unenforceable.”

Heyburn has not yet made a decision about the state’s earlier request to delay the effective date of this opinion. He still could OK the delay. And, either way, the state still has 30 days to appeal.

We’re gathering more information. Stay tuned.

Earlier: Kentucky’s attorney general has asked a federal judge to delay the date an opinion expected to require the state to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages goes into effect.

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn is expected to issue a final opinion regarding out-of-state same-sex marriages sometime Thursday. Earlier this month, Heyburn issued a preliminary order that said Kentucky must recognize such marriages because a 2004 same-sex marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. 

In the Thursday court filing, Conway’s office asked for the 90-day stay to give the state  ”time to determine if they will appeal the order, and the Executive Branch time to determine what actions must be taken to implement this Court’s Order if no appeal is taken.”

As of noon Thursday, Heyburn had not acted on the request, nor issued the final opinion.

Dan Canon, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said they’ll oppose the attorney general’s motion.

The case was initiated last summer by Greg Bourke and Michael De Leon, who were married in Canada.

Heyburn indicated Wednesday that he’d issue the final order within the next day,  plaintiffs’ attorneys said. He also allowed two same-sex couples denied marriage licenses in Louisville to join the court case, Bourke v. Beshear. That question is expected to be dealt with in later opinions.

Joseph Lord

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

@joseph_Lord

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