Kentucky governor Steve Beshear has a pretty strong message for county clerks who refuse marriage licenses to residents: quit. The governor made the statement at a press conference earlier this month, saying,
"When you voluntarily decide to run for office, and you win, you raise your hand and you take the oath to uphold the Constitutions of the United States...that oath doesn't say 'I will uphold the parts of the Constitution that I agree with and won't with the parts I don't agree with'..."
He continued to address county clerks who feel their personal values have been compromised by the recent Supreme Court decision,
"...if you are at that point to where your personal convictions tell you that you simply cannot fulfill your duties that you were elected to do, then obviously an honourable course to take is to resign..."
Only a few months ago, Beshear's legal team filed a brief defending Kentucky's then-ban on same-sex marriage, with Beshear himself hiring private lawyers to do so. His about-face on this issue has more to do with upholding the law than his own viewpoint on the issue, which he has historically kept private. Beshear is ensuring his state follows the Supreme Court ruling in each one of its counties.
County clerks are elected officials who have an incredible amount of power, especially when it comes to deciding which residents can and cannot get married in their jurisdictions. Beshear's comments came on the heels of a lawsuit brought against one such county clerk, Kim Davis. Davis is a clerk in Kentucky's Rowan County, who was so offended by the federal ruling that she prohibited every clerk in the county from issues marriage licenses to anybody, even to opposite-sex couples. She said that the ruling violated her "religious freedom" to pick and choose which aspects of the Bible to enforce and which to completely ignore. Davis testified that she couldn't permit any staff members to issue the marriage licenses because, "if I say they are authorized, I'm saying I agree with it".
Not surprisingly, the ACLU became involved and Davis was sued on behalf of four couples, two same-sex couples, and two opposite-sex couples, denied their right to marry. Davis defended her position at trial, insisting that it is a violation of her religious freedoms to allow happy couples to get married. She has also refused to resign, saying that it "helps nobody" (except, of course, the Rowan County couples who want to celebrate their love by getting married).
Beshear also sat down with another county clerk, also with the surname Davis, on the same issue. Casey Davis met with the governor and was "urged" to "comply with the law". When speaking with reports, Davis said that he'd rather go to jail than issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.