Kentucky Governor Refuses to Intervene to Protect Religious Liberty of Clerk Facing Contempt Charge

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who is a professing Christian and member of a Disciples of Christ congregation, has stated that he will not call for a special session to provide emergency protections of the religious liberty of a Christian clerk that is facing a contempt charge for refusing to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals.

“There are obviously strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but the United States Supreme Court has spoken and same-sex marriage is now legal in Kentucky and the rest of the United States,” he wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

As previously reported, Kim Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, has been the subject of a federal suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of two homosexuals and their partners, and well as two opposite-sex couples, after she declined to issue any marriage licenses of any kind following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Davis in turn sued Beshear for violating the free exercise of religion provided in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Neither your oath nor the Supreme Court dictates what you must believe. But as elected officials, they do prescribe how we must act,” he wrote in a letter to Davis and other clerks in the state.

Last month, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled that Davis may have the free exercise of religion in her private life, but limited her Christian identity on the job to a mental belief as opposed to an inseparable, inviolable lifestyle that excludes her from being a facilitator of other men’s sins. (1 Timothy 5:22)

Attorneys for Davis then sought to obtain a stay on Bunning’s order that she issue marriage licenses to homosexuals, but all appeals were unsuccessful—including to the U.S. Supreme Court. As Davis has decided to obey God rather than men and continues to defy the order, she has been called into court tomorrow to face an allegation of contempt which may result in heavy financial penalties.

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While some are seeking to stand behind Davis and her right to religious liberty, Gov. Beshear says that he will not intervene in the matter. At least two other clerks in the state, Casey Davis of Casey County and Kenny Brown in Boone County, are likewise declining to issue licenses because of their Christian convictions.

“Regardless of whatever their personal feelings might be, 117 of our 120 county clerks are following the law and carrying out their duty to issue marriage licenses regardless of gender,” Beshear, a Democrat, wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “Same-sex couples are now being married in Kentucky and such marriages from other states are now being recognized under Kentucky law.”

The governor said that his hands are tied in the matter and he can do nothing about Davis’ situation.

“The future of the Rowan County Clerk is now in the hands of the courts,” he stated. “The legislature has placed the authority to issue marriage licenses squarely on county clerks by statute, and I have no legal authority to relieve her of her statutory duty by executive order or to remove her from office.”

Beshear also refused to call a special session of the General Assembly over the issue so that lawmakers could enshrine emergency religious liberty protections into the law.

“The General Assembly will convene in four months and can make any statutory changes it deems necessary at that time. I see no need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money calling a special session of the General Assembly when 117 of 120 county clerks are doing their jobs,” he said.

Beshear attends Crestwood Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, which is a member of the Disciples of Christ and leaves the issue of whether or not homosexual behavior is sinful up to personal interpretation. He previously attended Lexington Primitive Baptist Church, which supports Davis. Beshear’s father and grandfather were both Baptist ministers.

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