Gov. Beshear tells county clerks to set aside convictions of same-sex marriage but won't share his own views on subject

07/21/2015 07:49 PM

FRANKFORT — Despite telling the few county clerks who still refuse to issue marriage licenses to set aside their personal beliefs on same-sex marriage and perform their duties, Gov. Steve Beshear on Tuesday twice declined to say whether he followed his own advice when he decided to appeal a 2014 federal court ruling overturning Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Beshear, whose second term as governor ends in December, continually brushed aside questions on his personal views toward same-sex marriage as his appeal of a U.S. District Court ruling on Kentucky’s constitutional amendment defining marriage moved through the U.S. Supreme Court.

After the high court’s opinion legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, those looking for clarity on the Democratic governor’s views on the divisive subject will have to wait longer.

“I have not allowed my personal feelings to become involved in this whole issue because I felt as governor we had people in this state who have very strong feelings on both sides of the issue,” Beshear said at an unrelated news conference at the Capitol Tuesday.

“We have a constitutional amendment that was voted in by about 70 percent of the population, so I felt like I owed it to every Kentuckian to try to get a Supreme Court decision that one way or the other would settle this issue and say what the law was all across this land.”

Beshear added that he’s ensuring Kentucky follows the Supreme Court’s ruling in his last months in office.

“My personal feelings can wait till another day,” he said.

Beshear didn’t budge when pressed in a follow-up question.

“I’ve never discussed and don’t think it’s time for me to discuss my personal feelings on this issue,” he said.

“As governor, I feel like I need to implement the law, and as officeholders, everybody in the state who takes that oath is now bound by that constitutional decision and need to comply with the law.”

Statesmanship aside, election-year politics may be another factor in Beshear’s decision to remain mum on the topic. Fifty-seven percent of Kentuckians opposed same-sex marriage versus 33 percent who supported such unions in a March Bluegrass Poll commissioned by The Courier-Journal, Lexington Herald-Leader, WHAS-TV and WKYT-TV.

Beshear’s son, Andy Beshear, is running for attorney general as a Democrat in the Nov. 3 election.

If Beshear says he believes homosexual couples should have the right to marry yet appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court before voters hit the polls this fall, that could put Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway in an awkward position. The Democratic gubernatorial nominee, in a teary-eyed 2014 news conference, said he agreed with the district court’s ruling from a constitutional standpoint, adding that if he appealed the opinion, he felt that he “would be defending discrimination.”

Republican Matt Bevin, Conway’s opponent in the gubernatorial race, has criticized the attorney general’s move against appealing the original federal court ruling.

Casey County Clerk Casey Davis and Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who have declined to issue any marriage licenses since last month’s Supreme Court ruling, have used Conway’s personal decision on appealing the same-sex marriage ruling to justify their refusal to hand out marriage licenses to all couples.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.