The high cost of battling same-sex marriage

The high cost of battling same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage is now a constitutionally protected right, but it took millions of dollars in court battles before it got to this point. The U.S. Supreme Court made the decision to end the ban in June, and since then, the states that defended same-sex marriage bans are being asked to pay some of the legal fees of the winning parties.    


According to U.S. federal law, the court “may allow the prevailing party … a reasonable attorney’s fee as a part of the cost.” Since the ban came to an end, the states that fought same-sex marriage are receiving invoices from the plaintiff’s lawyers. So far, seven states have agreed to pay these fees, ranging from $58,000 to $1.5 million.   


While some states have decided to pay the plaintiff’s bills, others are fighting to get them reduced. Kentucky is facing some of the highest attorney fees at over $2 million, but the state’s governor, Steven Beshear, believes this amount is too high. In August, Beshear pointed out that the law calls for “reasonable” fees and that his state “will be contesting those amounts as unreasonable.” Should Kentucky have to pay this much money for fighting same-sex marriage?  


Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (AP Photo/John Flavell)

Beshear spent two years defending Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage, which was costly for both parties. Nine lawyers for same-sex couples were a part of two lawsuits, Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear, pushing for marriage equality. The many hours this group of lawyers spent on these separate cases, both in and out of court, accrued a pile of bills. Since the Kentucky government was drawing out these court battles that they eventually lost, the state became responsible for paying the attorney fees; Michigan attorney Dana Nessel says that this is “the price governments pay for defending bigotry.”    


The states that are fighting these fees are gambling by risking a bigger financial loss if they don’t win in court. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway warned his state early on that fighting in court would just waste resources if they continued “pursuing a case we are unlikely to win.”        


Should the states that fought same-sex marriage have to pay for the plaintiff’s attorney fees? Will every state that fought for a ban need to pay up? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.  


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