March 19, 2014 at 6:05 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Judge stays order requiring Ky. to recognize same-sex marriages
Vicco, Kentucky, employment non-discrimination, gay news, Washington Blade

A judge has held off his order requiring Kentucky to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. (Image by Seth Ilys via Wikimedia Commons)

A federal judge who earlier ordered Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed out-of-state has now stayed that decision pending further action from a higher court.

In a four-page order on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn, who struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in the case of Love v. Beshear, said he’s staying his order until further action from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“One judge may decide a case, but ultimately others have a final say,” Heyburn writes. “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.”

Last month, Heyburn, following his ruling, ordered Kentucky to begin recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, but stayed that decision until March 20.

Following the order, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced he would no longer defend the marriage ban in court, although Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced he would continue defending the law on his own. Beshear had requested a stay of the court’s order from the district judge pending a decision from the Sixth Circuit.

Explaining his reasoning to grant a stay, Heyburn places significant emphasis on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to issue a stay on same-sex marriages performed in Utah following a district court ruling striking down the ban in that state.

“It may be years before the appeals process is completed,” Heyburn writes. “Also, our case is different than Kitchen. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has sent a strong message by its unusual intervention and order in that case. It cannot be easily ignored.”

Heyburn was confirmed to the federal bench in 1992 after being recommended to the bench by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and nominated by former President George H.W. Bush.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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