HAZARD—The ground-breaking 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States last month that was intended to allow people to become united seems to have fostered more division than unity in county clerk’s offices in some of the 120 counties in the Commonwealth.
Nearly half of Kentucky’s county clerk’s came together last week in a letter to Governor Steve Beshear, requesting that he call a special session of the General Assembly to address the issue of same-sex marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruled on June 26, that same-sex marriages would be legal and recognized nationwide.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that the Lawrence County Clerk Chris Jobe and the Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown said in a press release about the letter than many clerks “now face attempting to balance deeply held religious beliefs and job duties in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.”
Though the list of those clerks who signed the letter had not been made public, Perry County Clerk Haven King said he was one of the 57 who signed and sent the letter to the governor—and added that he still thinks it is extremely important to call a special session now, not later, in order to address any possible conflicts.
“The issues that I have is we’ve got a law, and my problem is with the new marriage license,” King said. “They’ve taken out the ‘bride’ and the ‘groom.’”
King explained that previous to the newly issued marriage licenses, the old forms identified the parties getting married as the “bride” and the “groom.” The new forms, which are to be use exclusively once the clerks’ offices run out of the old ones, identify the marrying parties as “first party” and “second party.”
“I’m totally against that. I think it should be ‘bride’ and ‘groom,’ and that’s the only problem I’ve got with it—well, I’ve got several problems with it—but that is one of the main things,” he said.
King went on to explain that since same-sex marriages are legally recognized now, statutes, laws, and other forms that apply to married couples need to have the language changed, as well, such as those concerning taxes and property.
“We don’t want to get in a position where we break the law, then we’re going to be responsible, and right now we aren’t clear on what that law is,” he added.
King said if a special session were called, these things could be addressed.
In a statement last week, Governor Beshear said he would not be calling a special session, which he said would cost taxpayers around $60,000 a day.
“There are obviously strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but the United States Supreme Court has spoken and same-sex marriage is now legal in Kentucky and the rest of the United States,” he said. “There is no need to spend $60,000 a day of taxpayers’ dollars calling a special session of the General Assembly, and therefore I will not be calling a special session on this topic. If there are any minor changes needed to clarify the language of statutes, any such changes can be made in the 2016 legislative session in January.”
King explained that since it doesn’t look like the General Assembly will be meeting before 2016, he thinks there could be another solution to these questions and issues.
“We just need two forms,” he said. “We can just keep the form we’ve got and then they can go ahead with the ‘first party’ and ‘second party.’ That’s all we need … The governor, he doesn’t have to call a special session to get the libraries and archives to go ahead and allow us to use two forms.”
“I think that a parent and a grandparent, I think they want their daughter to be known as a ‘bride’ and her husband as a ‘groom,’ with the people that I’ve talked to, and I’ve talked to several different churches and they’re told me they don’t like that,” he added. “I think what you will see is I think you will see an uprising of the religious people, and I think you will see them going to see the governor.”
When asked why there should not be three forms, for a bride and a groom, two grooms, or two brides, King said he didn’t think that was necessary, adding that two separate forms would be enough to solve any issues.
“I’m just totally against my granddaughter having a marriage and having to put down that she’s a ‘first party.’ She’s a bride,” he said. “I think that that’s just wrong.”
King said that though his personal beliefs do not support the Supreme Court’s decision, he and his office did not plan to go the way of other county clerks, like Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, and deny licenses to all or any parties.
“I’m against same-sex marriage because the way I read the Bible is God ordained it, I didn’t. He said it’s between one man and one woman, and that’s what I have to go by—but I also have to obey the law,” he said, adding that his office had yet to be asked for a marriage application for a same-sex couple.
King said a county clerks meeting was set to be held in Lexington on Wednesday to discuss the issues surrounding the same-sex marriage ruling.
Amelia Hollliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.