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Religious Tolerance logo

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage (aka gay
marriage) across the U.S. in its ruling of The Obergefell v. Hodges
case from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee.

Part 46: 2015-JULY: Same-sex couples'
marriage license problems in Kentucky:
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We use the term "gay marriage."to represent the marriage of two persons of
the same sex. We prefer "Same-sex marriage," a more inclusive term that
includes spouses with a bisexual sexual orientation, but it would make this web
site harder to find.
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.
"LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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U.S. map with Kentucky highlighted Kentucky: 2015-JUL-06 to 09: Two county clerks in Rowan and Casey Counties refused to supply marriage licenses :

There are 120 counties in Kentucky! Only the states of Texas and Georgia have a larger number. It appears that as of JUL-06, same-sex couples could obtain marriage licenses in 118 Kentucky counties. Only two clerks are refusing to issue such licenses.

A few hours after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision was issued on JUN-26, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) issued an order to all clerks in the state. He stated that they must follow the Court's ruling. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D) warned clerks that they might be sued by couples who had been refused licenses. A few clerks resisted, but all but two reconsidered and reversed their decision during the following few days.

  • Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was one of the two who continued to resist. She decided to not issue any more marriage licenses to any couples. She allegedly refused two qualified same-sex and two qualified opposite-sex couples. She was prepared to violate her oath of office which included a promise to follow the U.S. Constitution. She appears to have decided to ignore her faith group's Golden Rule. She pledged to never issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. She said:

    "It’s a deep-rooted conviction; my conscience won’t allow me to do that. It goes against everything I hold dear, everything sacred in my life."

She appears to believe that if she discriminates equally against same-sex and opposite-sex couples, then she cannot be charged with discrimination.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed a federal lawsuit against Ms. Davis. Laura Landenwich, a lawyer for the ACLU wrote that Ms. Davis:

"... has the absolute right to believe whatever she wants about God, faith, and religion, but as a government official who swore an oath to uphold the law, she cannot pick and choose who she is going to serve, or which duties her office will perform based on her religious beliefs." 1

This sums up accurately what is at stake: Everyone is guaranteed the freedom of religious belief, speech, assembly, proselytizing, etc. But if a person decides to perform an action that discriminates against others on the basis of their religious beliefs, then they can run afoul of city or state human rights legislation. If they are an employee of the state government, they can run afoul of the U.S. Constitution which they swore in their oath of office to uphold.

Religious beliefs are protected. Discriminatory religious actions sometimes have negative consequences. Unfortunately, when it comes to religion, many social, political, and religious conservatives equate beliefs and actions.

Dan Canon, another attorney for the ACLU, said:

"We've asked the court to immediately order the Rowan County clerk to begin issuing licenses." 2

Gawker.com has a video of Kim Davis refusing to issue a marriage license to a gay couple. 3

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  • Another conflict arose in Casey County. By coincidence, Clerk Casey Davis, has the same first name as the name of the county for which he works. He also has the same last name as Kim Davis from Rowan County, although the two are not related. He had said that his pledge to God would not allow him to issue licenses to same-sex couples. He suggested that the State of Kentucky set up an online system that couples could use to obtain licenses. He also refused to issue licenses to qualified same-sex and opposite-sex couples. He said:

    "I just took an oath and pledged to God. My conscience won't let me go against that." 2

On JUL-06, Davis met with Larry Bond, Governor Beshear's chief of staff. The governor was unavailable to meet that day, but said:

"... my position is clear because I took the same oath they did, and that oath is to uphold that constitutional ruling, regardless as to what you feel about it. But I'll talk to them. I certainly encourage them to go ahead and perform their duties and move along." 2

He also said that he was:

"... proud that the vast majority of clerks has marched on and are doing their jobs." 2

Before meeting with Bond, Davis attended an anti-marriage equality rally in Case County. 1,200 supporters were present

On JUL-09, Casey Davis met with Governor Steve Beshear. Afterwards, the governor issued a statement saying:

"I advised Mr. Davis that I respect his right to his own personal beliefs regarding same-sex marriages. However, when he was elected, he took a constitutional oath to uphold the United States Constitution. One of Mr. Davis’ duties as county court clerk is to issue marriage licenses, and the Supreme Court now says that the United States Constitution requires those marriage licenses to be issued regardless of gender. Mr. Davis’ own county attorney has advised him that his oath requires him to do so." 4

A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said that they had not launched a lawsuit against Mr. Davis. However, they:

"... asked folks if their rights have been violated to be in contact with us. ... This is the third or fourth time the governor has made a statement of this sort, including within minutes of the Supreme Court ruling saying marriage equality is the law of the land. You've sworn an oath to do a job." 4

Kent Ostrander, executive director of The Family Foundation, announced the creation of the Kentucky Religious Liberty Defense Fund. It is being set up to pay for the legal defense:

"... of those who are targeted to have their religious liberty curtailed. ... In this marriage matter, there is no reason for the force of government to come against citizens and workers with deeply held religious convictions. 2

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  • Three readers of the Lexington Herald-Leader article posted particularly interesting comments that were not sympathetic to Clerk Davis' stand:
    • Kelly Cox, a teacher at Notre Dame High School wrote:

      "If you 'pledged to God to uphold the law' then you have to issue them marriage licenses, because that IS the law now. Otherwise, quit your job and do something else."

    • Kimberlee Batchelor of Morehead State University wrote:

      "There's this thing called the 14th Amendment. This clown should probably have someone explain it to him. I mean -- here's how ridiculous his argument is:

      Imagine he goes to the public library to check out a book, but the librarian denies him a library card. Why would the librarian do this? Turns out that the librarian is of the Jewish faith and happens to keep kosher, but Casey Davis happens to be a bacon-loving, biscuit-and-sausage-gravy-loving kind of guy. Well, as anyone should know, pork is a biblical no-no. A sin. Icky. An abomination. Sorry Casey - no book for you.

      Now then - how stupid is that? Yet that is EXACTLY the reasoning (or lack thereof) Mr. Davis is employing.

      It's time for Mr. Davis to find a job elsewhere, since clearly he is unable and unwilling to fulfil the responsibilities of his current office."

    • "Vir2ualvibes" wrote:

      "He knows that you have to show numerous documents when applying for a wedding lic. including a Birth Certificate, photo ID, proof of Citizenship, parental consent, death certificate if widowed, Divorce Decree if divorced, blood tests in a few states. You cannot provide this online. ..."

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Claire Galofaro, "Kentucky Clerk Sued for Not Issuing Gay-Marriage Licenses," Time Magazine, 2015-JUL-02, at: http://time.com/
  2. Jack Brammer, "Casey County clerk sought to meet with Beshear, wants state to issue marriage licenses online," Lexington Herald-Leader, 2015-JUL-06, at: http://www.kentucky.com/
  3. Rich Juzwiak, "County Clerk in Kentucky Filmed Denying Gay Couple Marriage License," Gawker.com, 2015-JUL-08, at: http://gawker.com/ The audio is not very easy to decipher, and the subtitles are frequently corrupted and rather humorous.
  4. Polly Mosendz, "Governor Tells a Kentucky County Clerk to Start Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses or Resign," Newsweek, 2015-JUL-09, at: http://www.newsweek.com/

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How you may have arrived here:

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-JUL-07
Latest update: 2015-JUL-10
Author: - Robinson
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