2 GOP lawmakers sponsor bill to exempt county clerks, ministers from liability for following religious beliefs on same-sex marriage
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Two Republican state representatives said Wednesday they are sponsoring legislation that would exempt county clerks from civil or criminal liability if they refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on religious objections.
Reps. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, and David Meade, R-Stanford, said in a news release that their legislation also would protect ministers who don’t want to perform such marriages.
Earlier this month, state Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Burlington, pre-filed a bill that would prohibit the state from requiring religious organizations or leaders to perform same-sex ceremonies. That bill would also protect such organizations and leaders from being sued for refusing to marry same-sex couples.
“There have been numerous media reports about county clerks who have expressed real concerns about how issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples violates their religious beliefs and convictions,” Lee said Wednesday.
“There are reports of as many as half of all county clerks who want a legislative solution to this issue. There is no doubt many others who are afraid to speak out due to the threat of civil lawsuits or criminal prosecution.”
The ACLU of Kentucky has filed a lawsuit against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. The suit is pending in U.S. District Court.
Casey County Clerk Casey Davis also has refused to issue licenses on religious objections.
“If we truly believe in the First Amendment right to freedom of religion, then shouldn’t our clergy, as well as our county clerks, be entitled to this added protection?” Meade asked.
The bill was pre-filed for consideration in the 2016 legislative session, which starts in January.
Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said legislation dealing with ministers is not necessary because the Supreme Court ruling had no impact on ministers who decide not to marry same-sex partners.
He said the group opposes any attempt to exempt county clerks from liability for not issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
“Why stop there?” Hartman said. “I can think of many amendments to add to allow our officials not to the do the jobs they were elected to do.”