US

County Clerk Sued for Refusing to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Issues a Faith-Based Lawsuit of Her Own

"Neither your oath nor the Supreme Court dictates what you must believe."

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis (Image via Twitter)

A Kentucky county clerk who is being sued for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses is turning the tables by suing the governor herself.

When Kim Davis heard the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, she said she prayed and she fasted before making a decision; she couldn't in good conscience issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple as that isn't a marriage, at least not defined by God, she said. She also decided to stop issuing marriage licenses to straight couples so as not to discriminate against anyone.

And because of that decision, Davis was promptly sued by the American Civil Liberties Union claiming that her denial to issue marriage licenses is unconstitutional. 

Kim Davis is suing Gov. Beshear for allegedly violating her religious freedoms. (Image via Twitter ‏@Loincloth71)

However, Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation organization that filed the lawsuit against Gov. Steve Beshear (D) on Davis' behalf, claim that it's the governor who is being unconstitutional by denying Davis her religious freedom rights and violating her conscience.

"The Commonwealth of Kentucky, acting through Governor Beshear, has deprived Davis of her religious conscience rights guaranteed by the United States and Kentucky Constitutions and laws, by insisting that Davis issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples contrary to her conscience, based on her sincerely held religious beliefs," the lawsuit states.

"Governor Beshear is not only liable to Davis for Plaintiffs’ claims, but is also obligated to effect Kentucky marriage licensing policies that uphold Davis’s rights of religious conscience," it goes on to state.

Roger Gannam, senior litigation counsel for the firm, told TheBlaze in an interview that Beshear has an "unconstitutional inconsistent position" with how he treats government employees when it comes to same-sex marriage issues. For example, Gannam said, Beshear hired private attorney's to appeal Kentucky's natural marriage laws after Attorney Jack Conway refused to do so. 

“Governor Beshear is unlawfully picking and choosing the conscience-based exemptions to marriage that he deems acceptable,” Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel's founder and chairman, said in a statement.

In a letter to Kentucky clerks sent June 26, 2015, Beshear reminded the elected officials that they had taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Kentucky.

"Neither your oath nor the Supreme Court dictates what you must believe," Beshear wrote. "But as elected officials, they do prescribe how we must act."

Terry Sebastian, Beshear's communications director, told TheBlaze that his office is reviewing the lawsuit.

"[I]t appears at first glance that she doesn’t understand the interrelationship between the Governor, the Attorney General, the county clerks and the legislature," Sebastian said. "The Attorney General is not required to appeal every case. The Kentucky Supreme Court held that he is statutorily vested with the discretion as to which cases to pursue. At the same time, the legislature has placed the duty to issue marriage licenses squarely on county clerks."

Sebastian also noted that Beshear does not have any legal jurisdiction over Kentucky's attorney general or clerks as they are all elected officials.

With Davis, it's "all or nothing," Gannam told TheBlaze. Kentucky law states that couples can obtain a marriage license in any county — not necessarily the one a couple resides in. There are more than 130 offices across the Bluegrass State where couples of any kind can obtain marriage licenses; they do not have to go through Davis.

"For Kim Davis to say she's not going to issue a marriage license does not create any real substantial burden," Gannam said. "It certainly didn't stop the eight plaintiffs who sued her from marrying."

Of the eight plaintiffs listed on the ACLU lawsuit, two are same-sex couples and two are straight couples.

Davis still holds her position as a county clerk as she was elected to that position, Gannum said.

Davis' lawsuit also named state librarian and commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives Wayne Onkst as a defendant. Onkst's department was responsible for creating gender-neutral marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

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