News (USA)

Top Kentucky Democrat wants special legislative session to discuss marriage licenses

Kentucky state capitol in Frankfort.
Kentucky state capitol in Frankfort.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — One of Kentucky’s top Democratic leaders has asked for a special session of the state legislature after some county clerks of court stopped issuing marriage licenses despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

But it’s unclear what House Speaker Greg Stumbo wants the legislature to do. Stumbo said Tuesday that he is drafting legislation to help address the issues some of the state’s county clerks are having. But he did not say what those issues were, and a spokesman for his office declined to elaborate.

The legislature adjourned for the year in April. Only the governor can call them back into session. A spokesman for Gov. Steve Beshear did not immediately respond to request for comment.

“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.”

At least two county clerks of court have stopped issuing all marriage licenses following the Supreme Court’s ruling. 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.

Casey County Clerk Casey Davis has also stopped issuing marriage licenses. On Monday, he asked to meet with Beshear to press him to call a special session so lawmakers could pass a law allowing people to purchase marriage licenses online, 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. “This is a very complex issue and perhaps it would be appropriate for the governor to issue a temporary solution via executive order until the legislature can craft a more comprehensive solution in January.”

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