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Antigay Kentucky clerk sues governor, claims “religious freedom” violations

Antigay Kentucky clerk sues governor, claims “religious freedom” violations
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AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

ASHLAND, Ky. — The Kentucky clerk who sued for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples has filed a lawsuit against the governor, claiming he violated her religious freedom by telling all clerks that they must either issue licenses or resign.

On June 26, the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled gay marriage bans unconstitutional, Gov. Steve Beshear directed the state’s 120 county clerks to comply and begin issuing licenses to all couples.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis filed the federal lawsuit against Beshear on Tuesday, alleging that the directive violated her “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Davis and several other clerks refused to issue licenses; 17 sent signed letters of protest to Beshear’s office. The governor maintained they must either adhere to the Supreme Court’s ruling or step aside.

Four couples sued Davis last month after she denied them licenses.

The conservative law firm Liberty Counsel filed a third-party lawsuit on Davis’ behalf, claiming that the governor should be liable for the couples’ claims against her. She also asked the judge to force Beshear to find a way to accommodate her Christian conviction that limits marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

“In no uncertain terms, Governor Beshear’s policies and directives are intended to suppress religion – even worse, a particular religious belief,” Davis’ lawsuit alleges, adding, “In doing so, Governor Beshear is forcing clerks like Davis to choose between following the precepts of her religion and forfeiting her position, on one hand, and abandoning one of the precepts of her religion in order to keep her position, on the other hand.”

Davis’ lawsuit also names Wayne Onkst, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, as a defendant. His office is responsible for creating a template for marriage licenses, and updated the design to remove references to “bride” and “groom.”

Both the governor and the library department declined to comment on Davis’ suit.

Legal experts have said Davis’ religious freedom arguments are unlikely to protect her from fulfilling her governmental duties as a public servant.

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