Politics

The Family Foundation’s Kentucky chapter has established a legal defense fund for county clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Four couples in Rowan County recently sued county clerk Kim Davis because she has declined to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruling lifted same-sex marriage bans across the U.S. Casey County Clerk Casey Davis is also not issuing marriage licenses.

Kentucky Family Foundation Executive Director Kent Ostrander said no government worker should be forced to do something that’s against their religious beliefs.

“When America was at war and its own existence was in question, America never required the conscientious objector to pull the trigger,” Ostrander said. “In the same way, government should do its best to accommodate all citizens with their religious liberties.”

Davis and Davis say religious convictions that prevent them from signing off on same-sex marriages. Both clerks are also not issuing marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples in order to avoid being accused of discrimination.

Last month, Kentucky’s constitutional same-sex marriage ban was overturned by the Supreme Court’s ruling, which required states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize marriages from other states.

On Monday, Ostrander called on Gov. Steve Beshear to issue an executive order to protect government workers who would have to issue same-sex marriage licenses, or to call a special session to have lawmakers “provide clear direction” on the issue.

He also urged Beshear to let county clerks conscientiously object to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, likening it to when Attorney General Jack Conway refused last year to appeal the state’s marriage ban to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The governor gave liberty to his attorney general when he didn’t want to defend marriage, but he’s not giving great latitude to county clerks who do not want to do that aspect of their duty,” Ostrander said.

In the lawsuit against Kim Davis, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky is representing two same-sex and two opposite-sex Rowan County couples who were denied marriage licenses last week in Rowan County.

Dan Canon, an attorney working with the ACLU of Kentucky on the case, said Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses deprives Rowan County residents of their due process rights.

“It is a baffling dereliction of duty for a clerk to outright refuse to issue marriage licenses to anyone who is eligible and who wants one,” said Canon, who was also one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the lawsuits challenging Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban.

He said the couples aren’t seeking the clerk’s endorsement of their marriage. “They simply want her to do her job and issue her a marriage license,” he said.

In Kentucky, it’s a Class A misdemeanor for elected officials to refuse to perform the duties of their office.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.