Kentucky governor tells clerk to issue gay marriage licenses

Gov. Steve Beshear (D-Ky.)

Gov. Steve Beshear (D-Ky.)

Gov. Steve Beshear (D-Ky.)

Gov. Steve Beshear (D-Ky.)

FRANKFORT, Ky. –– Kentucky‘s governor told a county clerk of court Thursday that he should either issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or resign.

But Casey Davis, who is elected, said he would go to jail first.

“If that’s what it takes for me to express the freedom of religion that I believe I was born with, I’m willing to do that,” Davis, dressed in a suit and smiling with his wife beside him, told reporters after his meeting with Gov. Steve Beshear.

Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian later confirmed that the governor had indeed urged Davis to comply with the law.

Davis, the Casey County clerk of court, is one of the local elected officials across the country who have cited religious beliefs in refusing to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court‘s ruling last month legalizing same-sex marriages nationwide. Their stance has prompted a debate about whether religious liberty extends to those officials, who are charged with carrying out state government functions.

Beshear, a Democrat, fought to preserve Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriages, even hiring private attorneys to defend it after the state’s Democratic attorney general declined to do so. But Thursday, Beshear offered his strongest statement yet that Davis, and others who share his beliefs, must follow the law.

“When he was elected, he took a constitutional oath to uphold the United States Constitution,” Beshear said in a news release. “One of Mr. Davis’ duties as county court clerk is to issue marriage licenses, and the Supreme court now says that the United States constitution requires those marriage licenses to be issued regardless of gender.”

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