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Kentucky to pay $1.1 million to lawyers in gay marriage case

Kentucky to pay $1.1 million to lawyers in gay marriage case
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge awarded a team of Kentucky attorneys more than $1 million for their role in the landmark United States Supreme Court case that struck down bans on same-sex marriage.

The state will have to pick up the $1.1 million tab.

In 2014, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn, ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

Attorney General Jack Conway refused to appeal, announcing that he believed the ban was discriminatory and destined to fail in the federal appeals courts. But former Gov. Steve Beshear hired outside attorneys to continue defending the ban “so all Kentuckians will have finality and understanding of what the law is.” He signed a $260,000 contract with that firm, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

The case — and others like it in Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee — made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which effectively legalized gay marriage last summer.

Jessica Ditto, spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican who took office last month and opposes gay marriages, said in an email Wednesday evening that the governor’s general counsel is reviewing the ruling.

“We are pleased that the court did not award any bonus attorney fees and eliminated certain fees and expenses that the court deemed unnecessary,” Ditto said.

Federal law mandates that losing parties in civil rights cases pay the winning side’s attorneys’ fees and expenses.

The team of attorneys who fought successfully on behalf of Kentucky gay couples asked U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson to award them more than $2 million, which included a bonus allowed under the law for extraordinary cases.

They argued, in part, that the case was complex and gay marriage an unpopular cause in Kentucky.

Though he applauded their efforts as having “an important effect on society,” Simpson declined to award them the enhanced fee, reasoning that is intended for exceptional cases lawyers might be otherwise unwilling to take on.

And he disagreed with their characterization of same-sex marriage as unpopular: They had supporters around the world, he wrote. Hundreds filed on their behalf in court, including 167 United States congressmen and 44 senators.

Dan Canon, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, declined to comment and said they were still “weighing our options.”

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