Director, Commonwealth Policy Center
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Governor Beshear wrong to issue ultimatum to county clerk over marriage licensing
DATE: July 9, 2015
CONTACT: Richard Nelson (270) 271-2713

(Cadiz, KY) Earlier today, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear ordered Casey County Clerk Casey Davis to issue marriage licenses to all eligible couples including same-sex couples or resign from office.

Commonwealth Policy Center Executive Director Richard Nelson said the ultimatum was alarming on a number of levels. “The Governor’s order is out of step with a current state statute that protects religious freedom," Nelson said. “Perhaps he forgot that his veto of the Religious Freedom Act of 2013 was overridden. The law is on the books and he needs to follow it.”

“This conflict is unnecessary and could have been avoided if the governor would have followed existing law–law that is controlling in this situation,” Nelson said. The act says the “government shall not substantially burden a person's freedom of religion.” and if there is another way to carry out a compelling government interest, it must be done in the “least restrictive means to further that interest.” 

Davis is calling for the state to set up an online marriage registry which would indeed further the government’s interest in the least restrictive means. Nearly half of the Kentucky County Court Clerks signed a petition for a special session where such legislation could be crafted to protect their conscience rights as well. 

Beshear's demand is also contrary to the Commonwealth’s constitutional protections of religious freedom according to Nelson. Section Five says ”No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.” “It’s strong language,” Nelson said. “and it would appear to apply to the governor.