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Governor, Two Vying to Replace Him, React to Gay Marriage Ruling

Hours after an historic ruling from the United States Supreme Court, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced that Kentucky will recognize same-sex marriages and county clerks will receive revised licenses for gay couples wishing to wed.

Cases from Kentucky were part of the 5-4 decisions that made gay marriage legal across the country. The Commonwealth was one of just 13 remaining states that banned same-sex unions. After a federal appeals judge determined that the ban was unconstitutional, Beshear decided to take the case to the Supreme Court when Attorney General Jack Conway refused to continue defending the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Beshear said that prior to Friday's ruling, fractured laws across the country concerning same-sex marriage had created an unsustainable and unbalanced legal environment where people were treated differently depending on the state where they lived. "That situation was unfair, no matter which side of the debate you may support," Beshear said in a statement.

"Kentuckians, and indeed all Americans, deserved a final determination of what the law in this country would be, and that is the reason we pursued an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Today’s opinion finally provides that clarity."

Beshear said that all state cabinets of the executive branch have been directed to alter any policies necessary to implement the decision from the Supreme Court immediately.

"Effective today, Kentucky will recognize as valid all same-sex marriages performed in other states and in Kentucky. I have instructed the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives to provide revised marriage license forms to our county clerks for immediate use, beginning today," Beshear said. "We will report additional expected policy changes in the coming days.”  

Conway, who was emotional in a press conference last year announcing his decision not to fight for the marriage ban, also released a statement on Friday. "The ruling does not tell a minister or congregation what they must do, but it does make clear that the government cannot pick and choose when it comes to issuing marriage licenses and the benefits they confer. It is time to move forward because the good-paying jobs are going to states that are inclusive," said Conway, who is the Democratic nominee for governor in November's election. 

"As Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I did my duty and defended Kentucky's constitutional amendment. When Judge Heyburn ruled the amendment was unconstitutional, I agreed with his legal analysis and used the discretion given to me by statute to inform Gov. Beshear and the citizens of the Commonwealth that I would not waste the scarce resources of this office pursuing a costly appeal that would not be successful.

As the Court profoundly stated in its opinion regarding the plaintiffs, 'They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.'"

Approximately $200,000 in public money was used to defend Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban after a private firm was hired to argue at the Supreme Court.

Republican nominee for governor, Matt Bevin, blasted the Supreme Court for its decision.

"I strongly disagree with today's ruling by the Supreme Court.  When the definition of marriage was put on the ballot 10 years ago, 74% of Kentuckians made it clear that they supported traditional marriage. Since that time, however, activist judges have chosen to ignore the will of the people, and to ignore the Constitutional principle of state's rights," Bevin said in a statement.

-Staff report