News (USA)

Kentucky governor: No special session for marriage licenses, issue already settled by Supreme Court

Gov. Steve Beshear (D-Ky.)
Gov. Steve Beshear (D-Ky.)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear will not call a special session of Kentucky’s legislature to deal with local officials who have stopped issuing marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

Tuesday, Kentucky’s Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo asked Beshear to call the legislature back into session to pass a law to address the issue. But he did not say what that law would be.

“Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, I believe all states need to look at their laws to see what changes might need to be made to comply with federal law,” Stumbo said. “States need to act quickly so that there is certainty and consistency in the application of the new law.”

It would cost about $60,000 a day to call the legislature back in session, and Beshear said there was no need to do that for an issue the Supreme court has settled.

“It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath,” he said.

Beshear noted the “overwhelming majority” of county clerks are following the law and issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He said his administration has continued to tweak state policies in response to the ruling, including issuing new guidelines about taxes and changing names on driver’s licenses.

While Beshear is not calling the legislature to act now, there is momentum building among lawmakers to do something. Casey County Clerk Casey Davis, who has stopped issuing marriage licenses, has asked for a law allowing people to purchase marriage licenses online, thus taking the responsibility away from county clerks.

Republican state Senate President Robert Stivers said senators have been “exploring options to address the situation. But he said he did not want the governor to call the legislature back to Frankfort to deal with it.

“Religious liberties are an important part of the basis of our republic and all statutory options available should be considered,” Stivers said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis after she refused marriage licenses to two gay couples and two straight couples. A hearing in that case is scheduled for Monday in Ashland.

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