Marriage licenses obtained by three couples in Rowan County were altered so they did not include the name of county Clerk Kim Davis, who had been jailed for refusing to issue licenses because of her opposition to same-sex marriage.
However, Gov. Steve Beshear and others said the licenses for the three couples were valid even without Davis' name on them.
Under state law, deputy clerks may issue licenses and perform other duties just as elected clerks can, said Allison Connelly, director of the University of Kentucky's Legal Clinic. "I think that that's really immaterial," Connelly said of Davis' name not appearing on the licenses.
Attorneys for the couples included the information about the licenses in a report filed Tuesday at the direction of U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning.
Davis had refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples, gay or straight, since late June when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. She has said that same-sex marriage conflicts with her religious convictions and that she could not issue a license under her name to a same-sex couple.
Bunning ordered Davis to issue marriage licenses and jailed her for contempt on Thursday after she refused. He released Davis on Tuesday, however, saying that with deputy clerks issuing licenses, he was satisfied the office was fulfilling its obligation.
Bunning instructed Davis not to interfere with actions by her deputies to issue licenses, and told attorneys for the deputies to give him a report every 14 days on their compliance with the law.
Copies of licenses issued to three of the couples who sued Davis, which were included in the court record, show that where Davis' name ordinarily would be, the words "Rowan County" were used instead. So instead of the forms saying they were issued on a certain date "in the office of Kim Davis, Rowan County County Clerk," which would be standard, the examples included in the court file say the licenses were issued "in the office of Rowan County, Rowan County County Clerk."
The three licenses had the name and initials of deputy clerk Brian Mason on a line designated for "recorder's name."
Two of the couples received their licenses Friday and another couple on Tuesday.
One of Davis' attorneys, Mat Staver, has said Davis thinks the licenses are not valid.
"They are not being issued under the authority of the Rowan County clerk's office. They are not worth the paper that they are written on," Staver said Friday.
However, Rowan County Attorney Cecil Watkins dismissed that argument, saying deputy clerks could issue valid marriage licenses without the clerk's approval.
On Tuesday, several other officials agreed that the licenses issued without Davis' name are valid.
Beshear said there was no question the licenses were valid. He noted the state already is recognizing same-sex marriages for tax purposes. "These folks got a license, they got married, and that's that," Beshear said.
Rowan County Judge-Executive Walter "Doc" Blevins said he had checked with the Kentucky Association of Counties, which thought the marriage licenses without Davis' name were valid.
Blevins said an official there compared it to a clerk instructing deputies not to issue hunting licenses. If a deputy clerk did so anyway, the license still would be valid, he said.
Blevins said he didn't think it would go well for Davis if she tried to block deputies from issuing licenses. "I think if she does that, she'll wind up back in jail," he said.
Also Tuesday, attorneys for Beshear and Wayne Onkst, head of the state Department for Libraries and Archives, asked courts to dismiss Davis' legal actions regarding them.
Davis has argued in court documents that after the Supreme Court decision, Beshear ordered clerks to issue marriage licenses, pressuring her to violate her convictions.
Beshears' attorneys, however, said he merely reminded clerks to do their jobs based on the decision.
Davis' complaints are "simply a misguided effort to register displeasure with the Supreme Court," attorneys for the governor said in a court document.