This clerk says online marriage license applications will solve religious dilemmas over same-sex marriage

To the Point
Stacy Wood and her wife Michele Barr

Stacy Wood, left, and her wife Michele Barr pause between wedding photos at San Francisco City Hall after getting married in San Francisco, California June 26, 2015. 

Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

The US Supreme Court has ruled that marriage is a constitutional right, but some local officials from Texas to Kentucky are still refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, citing religious objections.

Officials in at least one Kentucky county have suspended issuing licenses altogether. The clerk in charge wants to remove humans from the process entirely.

“There is no one in my office issuing licenses, they all object for religious reasons,” said Casey Davis, the Casey County Clerk. “The solution that I’ve suggested to the governor is that, since we pay our bills, shop, do everything else online, why couldn’t we have a marriage license issued online?”

Davis said he suspended issuing marriage licenses because even though he opposes same-sex marriage, he did not want to discriminate against gay couples. He said online marriage licenses could resolve that conflict because they wouldn’t be issued under his name or at his directive. Davis said he hoped Gov. Steve Beshear will consider his suggestion. In the meantime, no one can obtain a license in Casey County.

Legal experts said counties are bound to continue issuing licenses.

“There’s probably going to be litigation in Casey County,” said Douglas Laycock, who teaches constitutional law and religious studies at the University of Virginia. “Somebody has to issue marriage licenses. You can’t just tell everybody in the county to go to the next county over.”

Even if such online applications are legal, they could still offend. And any policy changes that lead to different government services, or delays, for gay couples is a legal problem, said Douglas NeJaime, professor at UCLA Law School.

“Provided same-sex couples and different-sex couples are being equally served in their ability to get a license — that’s the key. 

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against another objecting clerk, in Rowan County, Kentucky.

This story first aired as an interview on To The Point with Warren Olney.

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