FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin ordered the state to prepare new marriage licenses that do not include the names of county clerks in an attempt to protect the religious beliefs of clerk Kim Davis and other local elected officials.
The executive order comes after Davis, the Rowan County clerk, spent five days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis said she could not issue the licenses because they had her name on them.
Bevin said wanted to “ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored.” It was one of five executive orders he issued Tuesday, the first of his administration, that mostly revised or suspended recent actions by former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.
“Today, I took action to uphold several commitments I made during my campaign so that we can implement real solutions that will help the people of Kentucky,” Bevin said in a news release.
Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins, whose office serves the state’s second largest city, Lexington, said he believes Bevin exceeded his authority. He sees marriage licenses as a civil transaction and believes the clerk’s names should remain on them for the historical record, he said.
“Hundreds of years from now, these licenses will be used by genealogists and researchers. Having the names of all the parties involves is very important when you’re talking about a permanent record, for purely practical purposes,” he said. “I’m not pleased at all by this. This has gotten out of hand.”
Greg Stumbo, the Democratic speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives, applauded Bevin for “finding a way to balance the law and the concerns (of) county clerks.”
It’s unclear how Bevin’s order will affect a federal lawsuit brought by four couples against Davis. One of Davis’ deputy clerks has been issuing altered marriage licenses to all eligible couples since September. They do not include Davis’ name or the name of the county.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the four couples, has asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to order Davis to reissue the licenses. Bunning has not made a decision yet.
Davis and her supporters had asked Beshear to issue a similar executive order. Beshear had refused, arguing only the state legislature had the authority to change the state law requiring the contents of the marriage license form.