Kentucky's governor-elect to remove clerk names from state marriage licenses

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 06, 2015 12:50 PM

By Steve Bittenbender

LOUISVILLE (Reuters) - Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin said on Friday that when he takes office in December he will order changes to the state marriage license form to appease clerks who have objected to issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

"One thing I will take care of right away is we will remove the names of the county clerks from the marriage form," Bevin told reporters in the Capitol rotunda.

Bevin, only the second Republican elected governor in Kentucky since 1971, said he would make the change by executive order.

It is unclear what impact his order would have on the case of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for five days after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, making Kentucky a focal point in the long-running debate over gay marriage in the United States. Davis met with Bevin the day she was released from jail.

Davis, 50, took steps to remove her name and office from the forms when she was released. She also had repeatedly urged current governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat, to remove clerk names from the form or provide another type of relief so she would not violate her Apostolic Christian beliefs.

Beshear has said he had no authority to relieve county clerks of their statutory duties by executive order and the issue could be addressed by the state legislature, which reconvenes in January.

Attorneys for Davis could not be reached immediately for comment.

Davis had refused to issue any marriage licenses after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June made gay marriage legal across the United States. Lawyers representing two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples challenged her policy.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis jailed for contempt for refusing to comply with his order to issue licenses. He ordered her released five days later when deputy clerks were issuing licenses, with the threat that she could return to jail if she interfered.

Davis also briefly met with Pope Francis in September in Washington during his visit to the United States.

Davis has asked Beshear, state lawmakers and Bunning to accommodate her beliefs. She has also appealed Bunning's orders to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Bunning and the appeals court have repeatedly denied her stays in the case.

(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender, Editing by Ben Klayman and Chizu Nomiyama)