Gov. Steve Beshear: Kentucky Will Recognize Same-Sex Marriages Starting Today

Jun 26, 2015

Credit Ludovic Bertron, via Wikimedia Commons
  Update 12:40 p.m.: Beshear’s Full Statement

Here’s Beshear’s full statement:

“The fractured laws across the country concerning same-sex marriage had created an unsustainable and unbalanced legal environment, wherein citizens were treated differently depending on the state in which they resided. That situation was unfair, no matter which side of the debate you may support.

Kentuckians, and indeed all Americans, deserved a final determination of what the law in this country would be, and that is the reason we pursued an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Today’s opinion finally provides that clarity.

All Cabinets of the executive branch have been directed to immediately alter any policies necessary to implement the decision from the Supreme Court.

Effective today, Kentucky will recognize as valid all same-sex marriages performed in other states and in Kentucky. I have instructed the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives to provide revised marriage license forms to our county clerks for immediate use, beginning today. We will report additional expected policy changes in the coming days.” 

Update 12:05 p.m.: Governor Issues Instructions to County Clerks

The Associated Press reports: Gov. Steve Beshear has told the state’s county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Beshear sent a letter to all 120 county clerks telling them the Department of Libraries and Archives will send them a gender neutral form today along with instructions on how to use it. He told the clerks to consult with their county attorneys with specific questions, but said he knows they will respect the rule of law.

Jacob Ryan/WFPL

Jefferson County Clerk’s Office

Update 11:45 a.m.: Inside the Clerk’s Office

The phone in the Jefferson County Clerk’s office is ringing off the hook. The question of the day: When can we get a marriage license? Right now, the clerk’s office doesn’t have an answer.

Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw doesn’t make the law, she just enforces it. And in the immediate wake of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Holsclaw is awaiting a directive from Gov. Steve Beshear’s office. “It’s not personal,” Holsclaw said. “It’s just business.”

The longtime marriage license form allows citizens to sign up as bride and groom. Now Holsclaw wonders whether she can white-out the words and replace them with the words man and man, woman and woman. Perhaps bridge and bride or groom and groom?

Jacob Ryan/WFPL

Save for the flurry of phone calls, it’s business as usual in clerk’s office on the ground floor of Metro Hall in downtown Louisville. A handful of citizens streamed in and out to pay delinquent taxes or get documents and notarized.

- WFPL Reporter Jacob Ryan

Update 11:40 a.m.: Kentucky Attorney General Weighs In

The Associated Press reports: Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway says the ruling makes it clear that “the government cannot pick and choose when it comes to issuing marriage licenses and the benefits they confer.” He says he did his duty as attorney general in defending Kentucky’s constitutional amendment against gay marriage, but declined to participate in the appeal because he agreed with a lower court ruling that the amendment was unconstitutional. He says it is time for Kentucky to move forward “because the good-paying jobs are going to states that are inclusive.”

Update 10:36 a.m.: Waiting For Word

WFPL News’ Jacob Ryan went to check on the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office. He reports that it’s quiet.

Update 10:34 a.m.: Details on the Decision

NPR has more details on the ruling: The justices had been asked to decide whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to a) license same-sex marriages and b) recognize such unions that were made in other states. The Fourteenth Amendment, we’ll remind you, was ratified shortly after the Civil War. It has to do with U.S. citizenship – and with providing equal protection for all citizens. Before Friday’s ruling, gay marriage had already been made legal in 37 states – by either legislative or voter action or by federal courts that overturned state’ bans. You can follow NPR’s live blog here. Earlier: The Supreme Court ruled today that the Constitution requires states to issue and recognize marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according toSCOTUS blog. The Obergefell v. Hodges decision has broad ramifications for Kentucky and same-sex marriage nationally; plaintiffs included people from Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan. The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who cites the 14 Amendment as the basis of his ruling. It can be read below. Kentucky plaintiffs and attorneys are expected to discuss the decision at 11:30 a.m. We’ll have coverage then. A rally is also planned for 5:30 p.m. Friday at Jefferson Square in downtown Louisville. We’ll be there, too. Stay tuned. Here’s a timeline of the Kentucky case: 

Kentucky instituted a same-sex marriage ban in 2004 through a constitutional amendment, which was approved by voters. In July 2013, Louisville residents Greg Bourke and Michael De Leon and others filed a lawsuit challenging the ban in the wake of the Supreme Court’s historic Defense of Marriage Act ruling on federal limitations of same-sex marriage recognition.  The men were married in 2004 in Canada, and their suit specifically asked the state to recognize their marriage. In February 2014 a federal judge in Louisville ordered Kentucky to recognize out-of-state same sex marriages. The judge later expanded the order to cover the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples following a second lawsuit. Gov. Steve Beshear chose to appeal the ruling after Attorney General Jack Conway declined to do so, and an appeals court in Cincinnati sided with Kentucky and three other states. It was the first time a federal court had affirmed a state ban. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this spring.