Politics

Nearly half of Kentucky’s county clerks are asking Gov. Steve Beshear to call a special legislative session to address their roles in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The request was made in a letter dated Wednesday and addressed to the governor. Fifty-seven of of the state’s 120 county clerks have signed it, said Chris Jobe, president of the Kentucky County Clerks Association and author of the letter.

“Many Clerks firmly believe that forcing County Clerk offices to issue same-sex marriage licenses when it is against their deeply held religious beliefs and traditions is a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment,” wrote Jobe, who is the Lawrence County clerk.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo has also requested a special session, but Beshear said he won’t call legislators back to Frankfort.

Clerks and several lawmakers, including state House and Senate leadership, are reportedly working on legislation that could modify Kentucky’s marriage laws.

It’ s unclear what that the potential legislation includes, but Casey County Clerk Casey Davis has suggested that the state offer marriage licenses online so that couples don’t have to go through a county clerk.

Davis is scheduled to meet with Gov. Beshear on Monday morning.

Following last month’s Supreme Court ruling lifting bans on same-sex marriage, County clerks in at least two counties have stopped issuing marriage licenses to all couples to avoid being accused of discrimination.

Two same-sex and two opposite-sex couples are suing Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for denying them marriage licenses last week. The couples are represented by ACLU of Kentucky, which says the couples’ due process rights have been denied.

It costs about $60,000 each day lawmakers are in session and special sessions usually last at least five days.

Jobe said the cost of a special session is justified by “the alleviation of future potential lawsuits and relieving the concerns of many County Clerks who serve their local communities.”

 

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