Legislative leaders make pitch for special session in wake of Kim Davis ruling; Westerfield calls on action from Gov. Beshear

09/03/2015 09:41 PM

Democratic Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is drawing national attention for her refusal to issue marriage licenses, but state legislative leaders say they want to pass a resolution in a special session to alleviate concerns that clerks have on the subject.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President Robert Stivers spoke with members of the media in an effort to urge Gov. Steve Beshear to hold a special legislative session to alleviate religious objections several county clerks have against issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Stivers, R-Manchester, said that the General Assembly can “come up with a simple solution” for clerks that lawmakers could pass in a five-day special session.

“I think this whole thing has been thrown into turmoil as to truly what is a marriage,” Stivers said.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he doesn’t think it is fair to have put Davis in a position to go to jail — where the clerk landed on Thursday after U.S. District Judge David Bunning found her in contempt of court for her continued refusal to grant marriage licenses to any couples.

“It wasn’t the law when she accepted her oath of office, but the constitutional oath she says is that she’ll uphold the law — no matter what that law is, whether we change it or the court changes it,” Stumbo said. “So I think she has a duty, as do all clerks, until we get a fix to go ahead and obey the law.”

“But we can fix it,” he added.

In a statement on Wednesday, Beshear again said there was nothing he could do to change the fate of Davis, who had defied a Bunning’s order to issue marriage licenses.

“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 said.

“The General Assembly will convene in four months and can make any statutory changes it deems necessary at that time,” Beshear continued. “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.”

After Davis had been incarcerated on Thursday, state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, the Republican attorney general nominee, pleaded with Beshear in a statement “to seize upon the many simple solutions available today.”

In an interview with Pure Politics, Westerfield again continued his plea for executive action from Beshear or a special legislative session to deal with the issue.

“There’s no need to wait until January, particularly now that someone is in jail for goodness’ sake,” Westerfield said. “The time to act is past due.”

Westerfield said that he felt there exists a slew of ways to alleviate the objections clerks have of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but his frustrations lie with the lack of action from Beshear — the father of his Democratic opponent, attorney general candidate Andy Beshear.

“Put the forms online, open the signing authority up to other parties, change the forms so the clerk doesn’t have to sign it… I don’t know,” he said of how to fix the issue. “I don’t know know the ultimate answer to the question, but what I’m frustrated about Nick is that he is not doing anything to find a solution that meets both rights.”

Video from Wednesday’s Legislative Research Commission meeting by Pure Politics reporter Kevin Wheatley.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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