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Private Firm to Be Paid $100K to Defend Ky. Gay Marriage Ban

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

After Kentucky's somewhat harried search for a firm to defend the state from the potential "chaos" of recognizing out-of-state gay marriages, a firm has been chosen.

The relatively small firm of VanAntwerp, Monge, Jones, Edwards & McCann, LLP has been recruited to defend the state in the Sixth Circuit for at least until June 6, according to Louisville's WFPL. Their contract with the Bluegrass State has a payment cap set at $100,000.

But what will the VanAntwerp firm be doing for that money?

Stay on Marriage Ruling Expires March 20

U.S. District Court Judge John G. Heyburn, II ruled in mid-February that Kentucky's refusal to acknowledge out-of-state same-sex marriages was unconstitutional, but he later stayed his decision until March 20. According to USA Today, Heyburn gave Kentucky's officials 20 days to decide how to implement his ruling.

What followed was Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announcing he wouldn't defend the state's gay marriage ban and Governor Steve Beshear announcing the state would find outside counsel. And they found one in VanAntwerp, Monge, Jones, Edwards & McCann, LLP.

Although the firm was ostensibly only "hired" in mid-March, its first task will likely be to appeal the Judge Heyburn's ruling to the Sixth Circuit and request a stay pending appeal. And given the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in staying the Utah gay marriage decision, it seems likely that the Sixth Circuit will grant Kentucky that stay.

In a request to extend the stay filed on Friday, counsel for Gov. Beshear stated an appeal will be filed no later than March 18.

Outside Firm Takes on Marriage Defense

Other than the particularly pressing issue of the March 20 deadline for Judge Heyburn's stay expiring, VanAntwerp, Monge has been tasked with taking on all Kentucky's defense efforts of the gay marriage ban.

According to the service contract procured by WFPL, the firm's scope of work clause broadly calls for representing Gov. Beshear's office "in connection with litigation regarding Kentucky's statutory and constitutional prohibitions of same sex marriages." This clause seems to include the ongoing litigation not only with Kentucky's right to refuse out-of-state gay marriages, but also to refuse to perform them.

For VanAntwerp, Monge the next three months may be extremely busy ones. Showing prior experience in the civil rights realm, the firm successfully defended the Boyd County Board of Education in enforcing its policy protecting gay students from harassment to the Sixth Circuit in 2008 -- in face of a Christian student's claim that it chilled his free speech rights.

This experience may have been the deciding factor in choosing VanAntwerp, Monge, Jones, Edwards & McCann, LLP, and the 11-attorney firm has its work cut out for it.

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