FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear told Casey County Clerk Casey Davis on Thursday that Davis should issue marriage licenses to every qualified person or resign.
The governor also said he won't call a special legislative session to address same-sex marriage issues.
Some legislators and county clerks have called for a special session.
Beshear met privately for an hour with Davis, who objects on religious grounds to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples
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The governor later released a statement saying he advised Davis that he respects his personal beliefs but he took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that the Constitution requires government officials in Kentucky and elsewhere to recognize same-sex marriages as valid and allow them to take place, Beshear said.
Davis said that he was disappointed with the governor and that he would continue to refuse to issue marriage licenses and would not resign.
He acknowledged that he is concerned about being sued or being charged with official misconduct but that he has learned "to lean on the Lord."
Before entering the meeting with Beshear, Davis, with his wife of 23 years, Christy Davis, at his side, said he was willing to go to jail for his religious beliefs.
"If that's what it takes to express freedom of religion, I'm willing to do this," the clerk said.
About 50 people stood in the Capitol rotunda to support Davis.
Pastor Jeff Fugate of Clays Mill Road Baptist Church in Lexington said a rally is being organized to support the clerk.
The ACLU of Kentucky already has sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.
Beshear was adamant in his message to Casey County Clerk Davis to do his job or resign.
He said that Casey County Attorney Thomas Weddle Jr. also has advised Davis that his oath of office requires him to issue marriage licenses to all qualified persons.
Weddle said in a telephone interview that he has "the greatest respect" for Casey Davis and his religious beliefs, "but the problem is that his religious convictions in this case do not comply with the law.
"I told him he would not win this case in court."
Weddle said he thinks Davis' position is a civil and not a criminal matter. "I hope the courts will soon put an end to all this," he said.
Beshear, who didn't speak to the media, said in his statement that only two or three of Kentucky's 120 county clerks refuse to perform their duties, and that most of them comply with the law regardless of their personal beliefs.
The courts and the voters will "deal appropriately" with clerks who do not follow the law, the governor said.
Regarding calls for a special session, Beshear said one would cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Any proposed legislation about issuing marriage licenses that meets the standards of the Supreme Court ruling "should be carefully thought out and could be considered in the regular session," which begins in January, he said.
Davis said $60,000 a day, the estimated cost of a special session, would be money well spent. "What cost do you put on freedom?" he asked reporters.
Davis described the meeting with Beshear as "cordial" and called the governor "a very nice man," who "respectfully disagreed with my position."
State Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, was among Davis' supporters in the Capitol rotunda.
Robinson said he sent a letter earlier in the day to Beshear, recommending that the governor issue an executive order or call a special session to create an online system for issuing marriage licenses.
Davis had suggested the online licensing earlier.
"This matter was established under God," Robinson said.
Asked why he thinks same-sex couples should not be issued marriage licenses, Robinson said, "God first created one man and one woman to raise a family. He did not create two men or two women together."
Kent Ostrander, with The Family Foundation, said he was disappointed with the governor. The organization has started a legal defense fund for public officials who are sued for their religious beliefs.
Pastor Fugate said 60 Kentucky county clerks want the governor to call a special session on the issue.
Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said Beshear's comments were "the most prudent recommendation for the commonwealth."
Asked what action should be taken against Davis, Hartman said, "I think we are going to see all this play out in the courts. I'm not of the mind that county clerks should be immediately hauled off to jail."
A hearing is scheduled for Monday in U.S. District Court in Ashland on the ACLU lawsuit against the Rowan County clerk.