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Kentucky governor faces off with Kim Davis over ‘absurd’ legal standoff

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis has sued Gov. Steve Beshear for instructing county clerks to comply with US Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. The governor is firing back.

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    Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis makes a statement to the media at the front door of the Rowan County Judicial Center in Morehead, Ky., Sept. 14. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear chastised the county clerk for her 'absurd,' 'forlorn,' and 'obtuse' stand off with the courts over issuing marriage licenses to same sec couples.
    Timothy D. Easley/AP/File
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Calling for a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed against him by county clerk Kim Davis, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says the legal argument against him is “absurd” and “forlorn.”

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis, who defied federal court orders to issue same-sex marriage licenses and was jailed for five days, has now sued the governor, claiming her religious freedom was violated when he requested clerks to comply with the US Supreme Court's decision that states must allow gay couples to wed.

Governor Beshear has repeatedly asked that a judge dismiss the suit. "Simply stated, Davis' role is a legal one – not a moral or religious one," Beshear's attorneys wrote in the request.

When Supreme Court handed down its ruling rendering same-sex marriage the law of the land in June, Beshear sent a letter to the Kentucky’s 120 county clerks to clarify the significance of federal law and how the state will comply.

"Neither your oath nor the Supreme Court dictates what you must believe. But as elected officials, they do prescribe how we must act," he wrote.

Beshear, who isn’t exactly a proponent of gay marriage himself, suggested that the clerks update the state's marriage license template to omit "bride" and "groom."

In 2014, when a federal judge ordered Kentucky to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, the Democratic governor went against his attorney general and said he would pursue an appeal with outside attorneys.

Davis claims that his June letter "commandeered" the county clerks and "usurped control of Kentucky marriage law," blaming him for all her legal troubles.

Bashear’s lawyer wrote that even if the governor had not instructed clerks to comply with the ruling, the Supreme Court and subsequent federal court orders mandated her to do so.

Upon her release from jail, Davis modified the marriage licenses, replacing her name and office with the phrase, "pursuant to federal court order." Two gay and two straight couples have since sued her over the change and have asked US District Judge David Bunning to reissue the licenses.

Bunning expected to soon make a decision regarding whether Davis’ lawsuit should continue.  

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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