Today we examine bills four pre-filed bills from Kentucky that would allow individuals, including government officials, to deny marriage licenses or refuse to solemnize marriages and one that would change the state’s role in marriage. HB 14, 17, 28, 31 and SB 5 would each amend Kentucky law in various ways but all with similar intent – to discriminate against LGBT couples who have the desire, and constitutional right, to marry.
Under current law, couples in Kentucky must obtain a marriage license from the County Clerk’s office, with the signature of the county clerk or deputy clerk issuing the license, and have their marriage solemnized by an authorized person or religious society. Members of the clergy and religious institutions already have a First Amendment right to refuse to perform marriages with which their religious traditions object. The bills in the House, however, would allow government officials to refuse to solemnize (and HB 17 would allow government officials to refuse to grant licenses for) marriages. The bills do differ slightly, but all are aimed at permitting government officials to deny marriage services for LGBT couples. In short:
HB 17 would exempt government officials and employees from licensing and solemnizing marriages of same-sex couples.
HB 14 would exempt government officials and employees from solemnizing (but not licensing) marriages of “persons of the same-sex as biologically identified and recorded at birth.”
HB 28 would exempt government officials and employees from solemnizing (but not licensing) marriages based upon any sincerely held religious belief.
HB 31 mirrors HB 17, but would also transfer the duties pertaining to marriage that are currently held by clerks to the registrar of vital statistics.
The bill in the Senate is SB 5. That bill would remove the requirement that the clerk or deputy clerk’s signature appear on all marriage licenses. This bill is a direct reaction to Kentucky County Clerk, Kim Davis’s refusal to sign marriage licenses for LGBT couples. Instead of requiring Kim Davis to fulfill the duties of her job, this bill would change the state’s requirements to suit her and her personal religious beliefs.
And we anticipate seeing even more versions of similar bills.
Stay tuned to our bill tracker and The Shield for more information on these and other religious refusal bills.