FRANKFORT — Two Republican state representatives said Wednesday they are sponsoring legislation to exempt county clerks from civil or criminal liability if they refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on religious objections.
Reps. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, and David Meade, R-Stanford, said in a news release that their legislation also would protect ministers who don't want to perform such marriages.
State Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Burlington, pre-filed a bill this month to prohibit the state from requiring religious organizations or leaders to perform same-sex ceremonies. That bill also would protect them from being sued for refusing.
"There have been numerous media reports about county clerks who have expressed real concerns about how issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates their religious beliefs and convictions," Lee said Wednesday. "There are reports of as many as half of all county clerks who want a legislative solution to this issue. There is no doubt many others who are afraid to speak out due to the threat of civil lawsuits or criminal prosecution."
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The ACLU of Kentucky has sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone following the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. The suit is pending in U.S. District Court.
Casey County Clerk Casey Davis also has refused to issue licenses.
"If we truly believe in the First Amendment right to freedom of religion, then shouldn't our clergy, as well as our county clerks, be entitled to this added protection?" Meade asked.
The bill was pre-filed for consideration in the 2016 legislative session, which starts in January.
Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said legislation dealing with ministers was not necessary because the Supreme Court ruling had no effect on ministers who decide not to marry same-sex partners.
He said the group opposed any attempt to exempt county clerks from liability for not issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
"Why stop there?" he said. "I can think of many amendments to add to allow our officials not to the do the jobs they were elected to do."