Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis’ office should reissue altered marriage licenses despite the state governor’s nod to validate them, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Friday. Outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear wrote in a court filing last Friday that he would recognize the marriage licenses as “legally effective” even though they did not comply with state law.
Davis, a 50-year-old Rowan County clerk, stopped issuing marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriages across the country in June. Two homosexual couples and two heterosexual couples filed a lawsuit against her in September and the ACLU asked a district court to hold Davis in contempt of court. Soon after, Davis was jailed for defying the apex court’s orders. In the meantime, Davis’ office began issuing the licenses to straight and gay couples. She was released from the prison after five days with a warning from a judge that she should not interfere in the issuance of the licenses.
However, a lawyer for one of Davis’ deputy clerk said that the Rowan County clerk had confiscated and altered all the newly issued licenses by removing her name, the county's name and her signature, weakening their legality. The four couples filed a motion in September saying that Davis violated court orders and expressed concerns over the altered marriage licenses. The couples noted that Beshear did not have the authority to recognize the marriage licenses as valid, the ACLU said, in a statement Friday.
“We continue to fight for the loving couples who hold marriage licenses of questionable validity and for those who are waiting to legalize their unions until this issue is resolved,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Project, said in the statement.
“Kim Davis has been out of line and in violation of the law since last June. No one should be treated differently under the law because of the religious beliefs of a public official,” Esseks added.
Mat Staver, Davis' attorney, pointed out that Democratic Beshear will exit from office next month and Republican Gov.-elect Matt Bevin, who promised to issue an administrative order to remove the names of county clerks from marriage licenses, will take his place, the Associated Press reported. Staver added that such a move would "protect the religious convictions and conscience of Kim Davis."
“As [Gov.] Beshear has now recognized, Davis’ actions have created considerable uncertainty regarding the legality of the altered marriage licenses. They impose significant and ongoing harm on Rowan County couples who are legally eligible to marry but now face doubt and fear that a marriage solemnized pursuant to an altered marriage license could be held invalid at some unknown time in the future,” the ACLU wrote in a court filing.