Conservative groups have criticized Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway's recent decision to not appeal a judge's ruling that struck down part of the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
Conway, a Democrat, announced Tuesday that he will not be appealing a Feb. 12 ruling by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II that determined Kentucky must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. Conway said in a statement that he has chosen not to appeal Judge Heyburn's ruling because doing so would be "defending discrimination." Shortly after his announcement, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, also a Democrat, said the state will hire outside attorneys to appeal Heyburn's ruling.
Beshear said in a statement that the definition of marriage "will be and should be ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in order to bring finality and certainty to this matter," adding that "the people of this country need to know what the rules will be going forward. Kentucky should be a part of this process."
The National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council have both released statements decrying Conway's move and applauding Beshear's decision to appeal Heyburn's ruling.
"We applaud Governor Steve Beshear's commitment to the rule of law and the people's definition of marriage. He is doing what every elected official, on every level of government across the country should do, defend the laws of the land," Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said in a prepared statement.
"It is absurd that Kentucky's Attorney General Jack Conway is not doing what he swore to do upon taking office – defending the laws and constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the judgment of the Kentucky's citizens who voted overwhelmingly on this issue. We hope that voters hold him to account for abandoning his sworn duty," Brown added.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, also released a statement criticizing Conway's decision, saying he is ignoring the will of Kentucky residents, who in 2004 voted by 75 percent to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.
"Attorney General Jack Conway took an oath to uphold the constitution and the laws of Kentucky, not undermine them through indifference driven by his personal ideology. Unfortunately, the Kentucky attorney general is following the lead of the U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, in showing contempt for the law and the citizens. Does Mr. Conway possess some mysterious knowledge and understanding that 75 percent of Kentucky voters who approved the marriage amendment don't have?" Perkins questioned.
"If Attorney General Jack Conway and Eric Holder can pick and choose which laws to uphold, is it then time for the rest of us to pick and choose which laws we want follow? If the Left follows this argument to its logical conclusion, then what's to stop pro-life attorneys general from refusing to defend abortion policies? Or anti-gun laws? Or anything they find personally objectionable?"
Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said at the National Association of Attorneys General Winter Meeting that state attorneys general do not have to feel obligated to uphold their state's law banning same-sex marriage if they find it to be discriminatory. Holder's comments received widespread condemnation from conservative political and religious organizations, including the Coalition of African American Pastors and the Republican Attorneys General Association.
Gov. Beshear said Tuesday that the state will request an infinite stay in Heyburn's ruling as the appeals process moves through the 10th circuit, saying "without a stay in place, the opportunity for legal chaos is real."