GOP Kentucky governor orders county clerks' names be removed from marriage licenses
Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Matt Bevin talks with his campaign supporters at his campaign headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, May 19, 2014. REUTERS/John Sommers II

Kentucky's new governor on Tuesday ordered county clerks' names stricken from state marriage license forms that were at the center of a controversy involving Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed after refusing to issue licenses to gay couples.


Governor Matt Bevin had said shortly after his election in November as only the second Republican governor of Kentucky since 1971 that he would change the forms that had drawn objections from Davis and some other clerks.

"To ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored, I took action to revise the clerk marriage license form," Bevin said in a statement.

It was unclear what effect Bevin's executive order would have on the case of Davis, who made Kentucky a focal point in the debate over gay marriage in the United States when she refused to issue any marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court in June made gay marriage legal across the United States.

The jailing for five days in September of Davis, who cited her Apostolic Christian beliefs in refusing to issue the licenses, drew international attention and demonstrators.

Davis also briefly met Pope Francis in September in Washington during his visit to the United States.

Lawyers representing two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples challenged her action. U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis, 50, to issue the licenses and then jailed her after she refused.

Davis took steps to remove her name and office from the forms after she was released and a deputy clerk has issued licenses since she was jailed in early September.

Davis repeatedly urged then Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat, to remove clerk names from the form or provide other relief so she would not violate religious beliefs.

The plaintiffs in the case have asked Bunning to impose fines or put the clerk's office in a limited receivership. Lawyers for Davis have said that Bunning's order said nothing about the details that must be included in the licenses.

She has also appealed Bunning's orders to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Bunning and the appeals court have repeatedly denied her stays in the case.

Davis and her attorney could not immediately be reached to comment.

Beshear had said he had no authority to relieve county clerks of their statutory duties by executive order and that the state legislature could address the issue.

(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender in Louisville; Editing by Frances Kerry and Alan Crosby)