Conway: 'For the trend of history, what I did was right'

03/12/2014 06:09 PM

Amid a flood of political advice, Attorney General Jack Conway said he decided being on the right side of history’s lens out-weighed whatever polling says now as he announced he wouldn’t appeal a federal judge’s ruling on Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban.

Conway, in an interview Wednesday, downplayed last week’s split on the issue between his office and Gov. Steve Beshear, who has moved to proceed with an appeal of U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn’s Feb. 27 ruling. Heyburn ruled that Kentucky’s 2004 constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

“We just arrived at two very different places, so it was a tougher decision to execute,” Conway said of the split. “I had a lot of political advice coming at me externally trying to get me to do something more political in nature but in the end I came down to a very fundamental place that I didn’t want to defend discrimination.”

Conway said he couldn’t make public exactly what he and Beshear discussed as they debated how to move forward because Beshear was his client.

“If I, as an attorney, have a client, I have a duty to tell my client when I think that I agree with this decision, I think there’s very little chance of overturning it upon repeal and it will be wasteful of state resources to continue the appeal,” Conway said (at 6:30). “Especially since no other judge in the entire country has decided a case in favor of these gay marriage bans.”

The night Heyburn’s decision came out, Joe Sonka of the Louisville Eccentric Observer reported that an organization was in the field with a poll that included questions about the ruling and how Conway should handle it. Conway said no one, including Beshear, showed him any results from the poll.

“I had some political advisors who looked at the crosstabs of the Bluegrass Poll and I knew roughly in this state its about 2-1 against it. So I knew I was doing something that was against the trend of the polling but I think for the trend of history, what I did was right,” Conway said (at 5:00) referring to the Bluegrass Poll taken earlier this year for four media organizations.

Conway has previously said that if his decision has a negative effect on his future political ambitions, including a possible run for governor in 2015, so be it. Wednesday, he expanded on that saying he doesn’t believe the appeal will be an overriding factor in elections in 2014 or 2015.

He said while some lawmakers wanted him to appeal, House Democratic leaders assured him it wouldn’t be a big factor in state legislative races this fall.

Conway also decided not to move forward on the appeal based on the cost. But Beshear has put out a request for proposal for a law firm to carry on the appeal. The going rate on the request is $125 an hour. Conway estimated that the total bill to the state would be in the mid-five figures.

“I would guess it could be done probably for $30,000 or $40,000,” Conway said (8:45). “I think a lot of the issues are already framed. I don’t think the brief writing will take that long. I think the brief that we wrote at the trial court level could be a guide for whatever’s put forth at the 6th Circuit” Court of Appeals.

“So I wouldn’t expect it to be a six-figure contract,” he said.

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