Religion

Kentucky Clerk Sues Governor For Making Her Issue Marriage Licenses To Same Sex Couples

| by Nathaly Pesantez

A clerk from Kentucky's Rowan County filed federal lawsuit against state Gov. Steve Beshear on Tuesday, claiming her rights to religious freedom were infringed upon when Beshear ordered all clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or resign.

Kim Davis, who herself faces a lawsuit for denying marriage licenses to several same-sex couples, says Beshear's mandate asking for the state's 120 clerks to issue marriages to all couples violated her "sincerely held religious beliefs," according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

In the lawsuit, Davis said the governor's mandate left her and other clerks vulnerable to lawsuits, and believes she and other clerks should have had the choice of opting out if issuing licenses to same-sex couples went against their beliefs.

"…Governor Beshear is forcing clerks like Davis to choose between following the precepts of her religion and forfeiting her position, on one hand, and abandoning one of the precepts of her religion in order to keep her position, on the other hand," the lawsuit says, according to the New York Daily News.

Davis is seeking protection under Kentucky's religion freedom law, and also demands that Beshear pay for the legal damages amounting from the lawsuits filed against her by Rowan County constituents.

Terry Sebastian, a spokesman for Beshear, said the governor's office was reviewing Davis' complaint, but questions her understanding of the executive and judicial branches of the state.

"The attorney general is not required to appeal every case," Sebastian said . "The Kentucky Supreme Court held that he is statutorily vested with the discretion as to which cases to pursue. At the same time, the legislature has placed the duty to issue marriage licenses squarely on county clerks."

But Roger Gannam, an attorney with the Liberty Counsel representing Davis, said Beshear misinterpreted the Supreme Court's decision, for an order was called for all states to recognize same-sex marriage, but not for every local official to do so.

Gannam also said that Beshear could have waived the mandate on clerks who did not want to issue same-sex licenses, making the case that same-sex couples could go to other accommodating counties to get a license.

"It's certainly not a constitutional violation to make people drive one county away to get a license," he said.

Given her capacity as a public servant, it is unlikely that Davis' arguments will win in court, LGBTQ Nation said.

"The case to me is very simple: She is infringing on the constitutional rights of our clients because of her own religious beliefs," Joe Dunman, a lawyer representing the couples suing Davis, said to the Lexington Herald-Leader. "She swore in her oath of office to uphold the Constitution, and the Supreme Court has decided what the Constitution says here. She doesn't get to ignore it just because she doesn't like it."

Sources: Lexington Herald-LeaderNew York Daily NewsLGBTQ Nation

Photo Credit: Benson Kua/Wikimedia Commons