Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear, urging a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed against him by Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, says her legal claims "demonstrate the absurdity" of her position.
In court documents filed late Tuesday, Beshear argued that because he never ordered county clerks to do anything in issuing marriage licenses, her lawsuit against him has no merit.
The courtroom developments continued to unfold, as she and her lawyers disclosed that Davis met briefly with Pope Francis last week during his US visit. "He told me before he left to stay strong," she said.
Davis refused to issue any marriage licenses after the US Supreme Court ruled in June that states must allow same-sex couples to wed. Taking part in any way in the marriage of gays and lesbians, she said, would violate her religious beliefs.
After both gay and straight couples sued her, a federal judge ordered her to either issue the licenses herself or allow her deputies to do so.
Separately, Davis sued the governor and another state official claiming that Gov. Beshear "took it upon himself ... to set and announce new Kentucky marriage license policies and command county clerks to abide by such policies." Those statements, her lawyers said, had the effect of "specifically targeting clerks like Davis who possess certain religious beliefs about marriage."
Lawyers for Beshear said his letter of June 26 merely informed county clerks of the Supreme Court ruling and added that Kentucky will abide by it. But even if he had not sent the letter, the ruling would still obligate county clerks to issue licenses to same-sex couples, the lawyers said.
They disputed Davis' claim that the governor could have directed the state to issue marriage licenses, relieving Davis and other clerks of the responsibility.
"Davis is simply wrong," they said. "Neither the governor" nor the other state official she sued "is responsible for setting or enforcing marriage licensing policy," which is the province of the state legislature.
The notion that the governor could require licenses to be issued on his authority "demonstrates the absurdity of Davis' argument."
What's more, the governor's lawyers said, state law does not require Davis or any other country clerk to condone or approve of same-sex marriage. The purely administrative function of certifying that the legal requirements have been met "does not implicate her individual religious beliefs."
Federal Judge David L. Bunning is expected to rule soon on the request to dismiss the lawsuit against the governor.