Kim Davis and other county officials in Kentucky should not have to worry about violating their religious conscience by performing official duties much longer.
Less than a week after the title “governor-elect” was added to his name, Kentucky Republican Matt Bevin announced he would make sure that Davis and other county officials who don’t want to sign gay marriage licenses would no longer have to put their names on the documents.
Davis couldn’t be happier.
“I am ecstatic. He is such a genuine and caring person. I will be forever thankful that he came to visit me while I was in jail,” Davis said. “At a clerks’ meeting he hugged me and said he was praying for me. I am looking forward to his leadership as our new governor.”
Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the group that represented Davis in her internationally documented court battles against being forced to sign gay marriage licenses, said Bevin should be the best thing that ever happened to those in Kentucky who want to exercise their religious liberty.
“The election was not even close. The lopsided victory for Matt Bevin stunned most political pundits. There is no question that the issue of religious freedom and same-sex marriage played a role in the results. The people favor traditional values and marriage, and they are tired of the political elites represented by Governor Beshear who are out of touch with ordinary, God-loving citizens,” Staver said.
“We look forward to working with Governor-Elect Bevin to accommodate the religious convictions of Kim Davis and other Kentucky clerks. Finally, we will have common sense and the Constitution prevail in Kentucky,” Staver added.
Bevin promised to make the marriage license policy change official as soon as he takes office in December.
Davis spent five days in jail on a contempt of court charge after refusing to issue any marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage.
She was released from jail by U.S. District Judge David Bunning after agreeing to not interfere with the marriage license process in Rowan County, Ky.
Liberty Counsel attorneys have appealed Bunning’s order to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. However, Bunning and the appeals court have consistently denied her requests for stays in the case.
It is unclear how Bevin’s announcement and promised policy change will affect Davis’ case in court.
But Liberty Counsel filed a comprehensive brief of nearly 100 pages before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals only a few days after Bevin won the Kentucky gubernatorial election.
In the lower court before Judge Bunning, Gov. Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway will soon file their opinion addressing whether the marriage licenses issued are valid.
Mat Staver said, “The upcoming filings from Gov. Beshear and Attorney General Conway are likely moot if not irrelevant in light of the soon-to-be-issued executive order from Gov. Elect Bevin.”
No matter what happens with Davis’ case in the judicial process, Staver said Bevin’s surprising victory was a sign of support from the voters of Kentucky.
“The people of Kentucky have overwhelmingly spoken in support of Kim Davis and others who believe our nation should be a place where all people can live out their faith without fear of being put in prison,” said Staver. “This is a day that our constitutional principles are being used as intended to protect innocent people from undue harm. This promise is a clear, simple path to resolving all the legal efforts on behalf of Davis.”
However, it is yet to be seen if Bevin will actually have the power, by executive order, to change the way marriage licenses are handled in Kentucky.
Davis’ attorneys repeatedly asked Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) for the same administrative change in the way marriage licenses were handled. However, Beshear maintained that only the Kentucky Legislature could remove the requirement that county clerks sign marriage licenses.
Bevin told reporters Beshear’s argument that the change couldn’t be made by executive order was “baloney.”
“Gov. Steve Beshear could have resolved this marriage license issue a long time ago, but he chose to ignore the plea for help,” Staver added. “Gov.-elect Bevin’s impending executive order is a welcome relief for Kim Davis and should be for everyone who cherishes religious freedom.”
Political pundits in Kentucky see Bevin’s victory — he is the second Republican to win a gubernatorial election in the state since 1971 — as a sign of a conservative backlash and the strength of political outsiders in the coming 2016 elections.
“This is the chance for a fresh start, it truly is, and we really need it,” Bevin told his supporters as he declared victory in Louisville. “I believe this offers us an opportunity to change the tenor of what has become expected in the world of politics.”