Politics

Republican candidates for governor say that presumptive Democratic nominee Jack Conway isn’t fit to serve because he refused to defend the state’s same sex marriage ban.

Conway refused to defend the ban last year, saying that he couldn’t defend a discriminatory law.

At the Republican gubernatorial debate Wednesday, the candidates all took shots at the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said not wanting to defend a law shouldn’t matter.

“It doesn’t matter if you agree with the constitution or not. When you take that oath to uphold the constitution, you represent the people of Kentucky,” Comer said.

Gay marriage is unpopular in Kentucky—Bluegrass Poll results from March showed that 57 percent of Kentuckians oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

The state’s ban passed in 2004 passed a ballot measure vote with 75 percent approval.

The Attorney General’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Hal Heiner, a Louisville businessman and the Republican frontrunner, said Conway should have been required to defend the constitutional amendment.

“It felt like when Jack Conway decided after swearing an oath to defend our constitution to not defend our constitution was a move that disqualifies himself for constitutional office,” Heiner said.

Gov. Steve Beshear hired outside law firm Leigh Gross Latherow to defend the ban in 2014.  A U.S. district court ruled against the ban in 2014 but the decision was reversed later in the year by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case will be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.