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Kentucky clerks object to ruling, halt all marriage licenses

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POSTED June 29, 2015 8:13 p.m.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A few court clerks in Kentucky were refusing to issue marriage licenses to any couple Monday as an objection to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage.

Casey County Clerk Casey Davis said his Christian beliefs would not allow him to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He says his office is no longer issuing licenses to any couple.

The high court effectively legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states in a 5-4 ruling Friday.

“My religious convictions will not allow me to in good conscience issue same-sex marriage licenses,” Davis said. “And I don’t want to be discriminatory toward them, or anyone else, so I choose not issue a marriage license, period.”

Davis said he has had no same-sex couple in his office to seek a license since the ruling was issued. The county in central Kentucky has a population of about 16,000.

Gov. Steve Beshear ordered all the state’s clerks to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses Friday. In a statement Monday, he said he expects all clerks, who are elected officials, “to execute the duties of their offices as prescribed by law.”

“While there are certainly strongly held views on both sides of this issue, the fact remains that each clerk vowed to uphold the law regardless of his or her personal beliefs,” Beshear said.

Clerks in Rowan and Lawrence counties also have halted issuing all marriage licenses in response to the Supreme Court ruling, The Lexington Herald-Leader first reported Monday. Repeated calls to those offices were not answered.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said its lawyers would be willing to represent same-sex couples who are refused a marriage license in Kentucky.

“It’s our contention that government officials’ personal objections are insufficient to justify refusing to do what they have been elected by the people to do, in terms of issuing these marriage licenses,” said Bill Sharp, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Kentucky. Sharp declined to say whether any couples have called the ACLU to say they have been denied a license.

Davis, the Casey County clerk, noted that state law allows for any resident over age 18 to seek a marriage license in any county of Kentucky.

“So I don’t see that I have to be the one that issues it,” Davis said.

Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, a gay-rights advocacy organization, said the clerks could face lawsuits over their refusal to issue marriage licenses.

“If these county clerks don’t abide by the law of the land ... they will be sued and they will waste taxpayer time and dollars on a frivolous and self-righteous pursuit that ultimately will be fruitless,” Hartman said.

Hartman said his group would refer callers who can’t get a marriage license to the ACLU of Kentucky.

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