Matt Bevin weighs in on county clerks not issuing marriage licenses

07/10/2015 03:35 PM

With an 8 paragraph long statement Republican candidate for governor Matt Bevin is siding with county clerks in their request to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples online.

Bevin, who initially expressed disappointment in the U.S. Supreme Court decision allow same-sex couples to be married, said his first thought is that the “government should be out of the marriage business altogether.”

“We can comply with the law while protecting our citizens’ rights to freedom of religion simply by separating the religious covenant of marriage from the legal, contractual relationship established by marriage as recognized by the state,” Bevin said. “The two are separate and they should be treated as such. Two consenting adults should not need to ask for permission from the government to enter into a contractual relationship – a license should not be needed.”

Bevin said if that was the case then, as with other contracts, the “government’s role should be limited to recording, interpreting, or enforcing such contracts in times of dispute.”

Recognizing that marriage is not performed in such a manner, Bevin said the licensing process should be changed the way some Kentucky county clerks are requesting.

“(W)e can make marriage licenses, or a marriage contract template, available as we do with other standard legal forms,” he said. “Forms can be available for pick-up, or downloadable, as you might download a power of attorney form. The form would then be presented to those with authority to approve or solemnize a marriage contract. That duly-executed marriage contract could then be filed and recorded at the county clerk’s office just like a mortgage, a lien, a deed, etc.”

Bevin said the approach would allow clerks to comply with the law of the land, while still allowing clerks their deeply held beliefs.

Gov. Steve Beshear has rejected calls for a special session of the legislature to pass such a proposal to do just what Bevin suggests.

In the statement Bevin takes a swing at the term limited governor and Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic candidate for governor.

“I call upon Governor Beshear and Attorney General Conway to defend the 1st Amendment rights of all Kentuckians, including our county clerks, and to stop hiding behind their lame duck status,” he said. “Each is still being paid to do the job he swore to perform and the taxpayers of Kentucky deserve no less.”

According to the office of the Attorney General no one has sought an Attorney General’s opinion from Conway in his official roll on the lack of issuance of marriage licenses by several county clerks, and whether the actions are protected under the 1st Amendment.

Constitutional attorneys contacted by Pure Politics said that clerks do not have a 1st Amendment case in their refusal to issue licenses. County clerks are state employees which perform administerial tasks and do not meet the standard to deny rights based on their beliefs.

The issue has become a political football for clerks as a handful have sent a formal letter to Gov. Steve Beshear requesting that he immediately call a special session of the General Assembly to address issues relating to issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

One clerk told Pure Politics the issue is two-fold: 1st Amendment rights of the clerks, and those clerks are elected officials that will campaign for office.

Boone Co. Clerk Kenny Brown predicted that the issue would be one that would come up with the potential for someone to campaign on the idea of shutting down clerk’s offices over the issue.

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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