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State ordered to pay fees over same sex marriage litigation

Now that same sex marriage has been given the same consideration as a hetero sex marriage, some states have had to make adjustments in their laws. While New York recognized the rights of same sex couples to marry before the 2015 United States Supreme Court ruling, some couples had to pursue legal recourse to ensure that their rights were recognized and protected. Now one state has been ordered to pay fees over some of those lawsuits.

The order from the judge that this state must pay the attorney fees over litigation is not without controversy in itself. However, the order was the result of the litigation that was filed on behalf of same sex couples who were denied the right to obtain marriage licenses. The judge ordered the state -- not the county or the individual clerk -- to pay the estimated $224,000 because the employee was representing the state in her role as county clerk. 

A magistrate had previously ruled that the state was not liable for the fees since the plaintiffs were not the prevailing parties in the case. However, the recent ruling overturns that decision because the judge stated that, because the plaintiffs were entitled to obtain a valid marriage license that could not be revoked, they were the prevailing parties and as such were entitled to have Kentucky pay the costs associated with the civil suit. One legal representative for the clerk at the center of the case stated that there would be a further appeal concerning this issue.

The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the judge's decision, as it believes it sends a message that the civil rights of all same sex couples will be protected, and if a state does not do so, the consequences will be costly. Same sex families residing in New York are likewise assured of protection of their rights. In situations where a couple believes that those rights were denied in any aspect of family law, they have the right to consult an attorney who is experienced in all aspects of same sex family law matters.

Source: New York Times, "Kentucky Must Pay $224,000 After Dispute Over Same-Sex Marriage Licenses", Matt Stevens, July 21, 2017

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