Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s groundbreaking decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide last week, four couples from Kentucky — two same-sex, two opposite sex — and the state’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter has filed a lawsuit against a Kentucky county clerk for refusing to grant marriage licenses.
Democratic Rowan County Clerk, Kim Davis, is one of numerous clerks in Kentucky who are protesting the Supreme Court decision by denying everyone a marriage license, saying that anybody who wants on will have to defer to another county.
According to The Courier-Journal, Davis condemns same-sex marriage due to her “deep religious convictions,” therefore she will not grant licenses to any couple, regardless of sexuality.
“My conscience will not allow me to issue a license for a same sex couple,” Davis said to LEX18 Lexington, KY News, “because I know that God ordained marriage from the very foundation of this world to be between a man and a woman.”
The ACLU has stated that they uphold Davis’ freedom to religious expression and belief. However, they argue that as a state official, she is expected to abide by rulings of the High Court and the law.
“Ms. Davis has the absolute right to believe whatever she wants about God, faith, and religion,” ACLU Cooperating Attorney, Laura Landenwich, stated. “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.”
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear — also a Democrat — is known to be an advocate against the legalization of same-sex marriage because he believes it negatively implicates economic development and that “there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage.”
“Kentucky’s marriage laws treat homosexuals and heterosexuals the same and are facially neutral,” Governor Beshear stated in his case brief for the Supreme Court. “Men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are free to marry persons of the opposite sex under Kentucky law, and men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same sex under Kentucky law.”
However once the Supreme Court made the decision to legalize same-sex marriage, Beshear released an executive order that mandated all Kentucky clerks to comply.
“Whatever the law of the land is,” Governor Beshear said as reported by USA Today, “Kentucky is going to abide by it.”
Casey Davis — a Republican county clerk from Casey County, Kentucky was originally in solidarity with Governor Beshear’s fight to ban same-sex marriages, but has since decided to back down and abide by the law.
“I did not take an oath that said I would lay my personal feelings down to do this job nor will I ever do that,” Davis stated. “As a matter of fact I said I would do this job to the best of my ability, so help me God, and the best of my ability does not go beyond what my conscience will allow me to do.”
Attorney Dan Canon — who is representing one of the four petitioning couples — said that clerks like Kim Davis are not just unlawfully disobeying the Supreme Court, but also are evading their Governor’s order to put aside their beliefs and comply with the law.
“We certainly respect the religious beliefs and whatever conscientious choices these clerks make, but…it can’t infringe on the constitutional rights of the citizens that they’re there to serve,” Canon said. “[But] these clerks are flagrantly disobeying not only the opinion of the Supreme Court, but also the executive order issued by [Governor] Beshear.”