Governor Steve Beshear says Rowan Co. marriage licenses are legal

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT)- Governor Steve Beshear says he hopes Kentucky can move forward now that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has been released from jail.

"I took no joy in the fact that the clerk was in custody, but that was a matter between the judge and the clerk. Hopefully we can move forward now. We need to be thinking about so many things that affect the future of Kentucky," Beshear said.

Two years ago, state lawmakers passed a religious freedom law to ensure that government action does not interfere with religious belief protected by the First Amendment. Gov. Beshear vetoed it before legislators overwhelmingly overrode the veto. Tuesday afternoon at the Governor's Conference on Energy and the Environment in Lexington, Beshear was asked about the impact Davis' case has had on Kentucky's religious freedom law.

"What you had here was a public official who voluntarily ran for that office, who is being paid $80,000 of taxpayer money," Beshear said. "The statute set out the duties of that office, but then she (Kim Davis) decided she could pick out the duties she would perform and not perform some of the others. I don't think the religious freedom law was ever passed to allow a public official not do to their job."

Kim Davis' attorney claims the marriage licenses her deputy clerks issued while she was in jail are not legal because they do not have Davis' signature on them. Beshear said that's not the case.

"Those marriage licenses are legal. Our tax department is already recognizing marriages of same-sex couples because the Supreme Court said that we should," Beshear said. "We're changing all of those kinds of law. The federal government is going to recognize it."

Beshear reiterated that he would not call a special session. "I never have wanted and would not call a special session and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money when we had 117 out of 120 clerk who were complying with the law and doing their duty," the governor said.

Kentucky law says county clerks issue marriage licenses, and Beshear said there is nothing he can do to change that, but lawmakers can. "If the legislature wants to come in January and change the process for issuing marriage licenses, they're free to do so."