Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin followed through on a campaign promise he made to defiantly antigay county clerk Kim Davis and today issued an executive order that revises the state's marriage license forms to remove clerks' names from them. In a statement on his website, Bevin claimed that his executive order was fulfilling "several commitments I made during my campaign so that we can implement real solutions that will help the people of Kentucky.”
Just days after Bevin was elected in November, he announced his plans to amend the state's marriage licenses, which the right-wing legal group representing Davis had long been seeking as a remedy to their client's defiance of federal law.
Davis, who still holds her job as clerk of Rowan County, had refused to sign marriage licenses following the Supreme Court decision for nationwide marriage equality, citing her Christian beliefs against same-sex marriage. She was subsequently jailed for contempt of court.
Davis and Liberty Counsel, the legal nonprofit certified as an anti-LGBT hate group by the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center, have consistently lost in their each legal efforts to defend Davis's actions. Nonetheless, last month they sought to have her conviction for contempt overturned, claiming the judge who sent her to jail was “threatening to hold her hostage indefinitely as a prisoner of her conscience."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, which represented the four couples (two straight, two gay) who sued Davis for denying them marriage licenses in July, argued that the governor's executive action only added to uncertainty over marriage licensing in Kentucky.
"The requirement that the county clerk’s name appear on marriage licenses is prescribed by Kentucky law and is not subject to unilateral change by the governor," said William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky, in a statement. "Today, however, a new administration claims to have that authority."
He said the ACLU is working with couples "who hold marriage licenses of questionable validity" and "will continue to challenge government officials who disregard the law in favor of promoting their own personal beliefs to the detriment of the rights of others."
Bevin wrote that he issued his executive order "to ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored."