Pastoral group fails to sway Gov. Beshear to call special session on same-sex marriage licensing

10/13/2015 09:12 PM

FRANKFORT — A group of eastern Kentucky pastors met with key staffers in Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration on Tuesday, urging a special session to accommodate religious objections to same-sex marriage licensing.

Morehead pastor Randy Smith was one of six religious leaders who met for about an hour behind closed doors with Larry Bond, Beshear’s chief of staff, and Terry Sebastian, the governor’s spokesman.

According to Smith, the group’s goal was to find a resolution for county clerks, such as Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who are uncomfortable issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis, under a federal court order, has allowed her deputies to commence issue licenses, which have been altered to remove her name and title.

“We know that neither the governor nor the judge was willing to accommodate Mrs. Davis, so she had to make her own accommodation,” Smith said after emerging from the closed-door meeting at the Capitol. “And so what we are here today was to try to compel the governor to act in a way that would bring an accommodation.”

Beshear has declined to call lawmakers back to Frankfort for a special session that would cost taxpayers about $60,000, and he reiterated that point through Sebastian on Tuesday.

“Mr. Bond reminded the group, however, that the legislature has placed the authority to issue marriage licenses on county clerks by statute, and the Governor has no legal authority to relieve them of their statutory duty by executive order,” Sebastian said in a statement.

“The General Assembly will convene in just 12 weeks and can make any statutory changes it deems necessary at that time. The Governor sees 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.”

Smith said he delivered a petition to Beshear’s staff requesting a special session with about 1,700 signatures.

His group offered a potential resolution to the matter by making the marriage license forms available online, which has been opposed by the Kentucky County Clerks Association, he said.

Smith made clear that he disagreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, calling it an affront to Christianity.

He also indicated his belief that the high court did not have authority to strike down laws despite such powers made clear in the U.S. Constitution and centuries of legal precedence contrary to his opinion.

“We’re getting in a place where that if you’re Christian, you can’t run for office because you will have to choose between the law of God or a so-called law of the land, and I know that we could argue the point about the Supreme Court ruling day in and day out,” Smith said. “But folks, it’s not a law. It’s a ruling.”

“This is the first time, this has set the precedent that a religious conviction has been overruled and has not been accommodated,” he added.

Smith could not, however, name any accommodations granted to those who opposed interracial marriage on religious grounds when the Supreme Court struck down such marriage bans in the landmark civil rights case Loving vs. Virginia in 1967.

“That’s a whole different subject,” he said. “We’re speaking about homosexual marriage. We could argue about different points on different things all day long, but today’s meeting is about same-sex marriage.”

Smith and other like-minded preachers are forming the Kentucky Pastors Alliance in response to the high court’s ruling and its aftermath in the state, and about a dozen churches have signaled their willingness to join, he said.

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 kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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