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Kentucky: Judge orders state to pay gay couples $70K in lawyer fees

Governor Steve Beshear attends 140th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

More good news has come for four Kentucky gay and lesbian couples and their attorneys who won a ruling back in February striking down the state’s ban on gay marriage. According to a report by the Associated Press on Wednesday, a federal judge has ordered the state to pay $70,000 in attorney’s fees to the couples in the lawsuit that served as a victory for marriage equality.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II made the ruling, but just like his decision to recognize out-of-state marriages, the order has been put on hold and is pending the result of an appeal by the state of Kentucky challenging the ruling.

Heyburn made his decision based off the outstanding job he felt the lawyers in the case did. He awarded them a $10,000 bonus for contributing their efforts to a “difficult, unpopular case.” Daniel J. Canon, Dawn R. Elliot, Laura E. Landenwich, Leonard J. Dunman IV, Louis Paz Winner and Shannon Fauver were the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case who Heyburn feel “achieved remarkable success” in their fight to obtain a favorable ruling.

Heyburn also declined the state opposition to the motion, noting that the counsel showed “considerable skill and determination” in a very “difficult” case. Because of those factors, he considered the hourly rate of about $250 and 276 total hours billed very “reasonable.” In total the lawyers were seeking $66,235 in fees.

Back in February, Heyburn ruled that Kentucky’s gay marriage amendment was unconstitutional in terms that it and other laws deny validly married same-sex couples equal protection guaranteed under the state and federal constitution. He later put a stay on the order in anticipating of an appeal. Gov. Steve Beshear did indeed file an appeal with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in hopes of overturning Heyburn’s decision.

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