News briefs from around Kentucky at 1:58 a.m. EST

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

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Kentucky’s top Democrats divided by gay marriage

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Two of Kentucky’s top Democrats split sharply Tuesday over same-sex marriage, with Gov. Steve Beshear saying outside lawyers will be hired to appeal a decision granting recognition to gay couples married in other states after the attorney general announced he would not pursue the case.

The high-level intraparty divide - illustrating the rapid spread of the gay-marriage debate into America’s conservative heartland - came four days after a federal judge in Louisville gave Kentucky 21 days to implement a ruling that overturned a ban on recognizing same-sex unions. Voters overwhelmingly approved the ban in 2004.

Attorney General Jack Conway choked up with emotion at a news conference announcing he would not appeal the ruling.

“I would be defending discrimination,” Conway said. “That I will not do.”

Minutes later, Beshear said in a written statement that the potential for “legal chaos is real” if a delay is not granted while the case is appealed. He noted that litigation over gay marriage is pending in many other states and said the issue ultimately should be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unless the judge’s order is stayed by a higher court, Kentucky will have to allow same-sex couples married outside the state to change their names on official identifications and documents and obtain any other benefits of a married couple in Kentucky.

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Republican group shows support for gay marriage

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A group of Republicans has come out in support of legalizing gay marriage in Utah and Oklahoma, arguing that allowing same-sex unions is consistent with the Western conservative values of freedom and liberty once championed by Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater.

Led by former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming and former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas, 20 Republicans signed a friend of the court brief submitted Tuesday to a federal appeals court in Denver that is reviewing same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma.

The list also includes former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, former Republican National Committee chairman Kenneth Mehlman and several state legislators from Wyoming and Colorado. Melhman came out as gay in 2010 and has worked to bring together Republicans willing to step forward in support of gay marriage.

Denver attorney Sean Gallagher, whose firm wrote the 30-page argument, said the filing shows that many prominent Republicans are re-examining their stance on gay marriage.

The group call themselves “conservatives, moderates and libertarians who embrace the individual freedoms protected by our Constitution,” embrace Reagan’s idea of the Republican Party being a “big tent,” and share Goldwater’s belief that the party shouldn’t “seek to lead anyone’s life for him,” the brief says.

“It is precisely because marriage is so important in producing and protecting strong and stable family structures that (we) do not agree that the government can rationally promote the goal of strengthening families by denying civil marriage to same-sex couples,” the argument says in the conclusion.

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