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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk And Voters.


Kentucky voters are divided on whether Kim Davis should resign

Kentucky voters are split on whether lawmakers should remove Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from office, but a majority say the procedure for marriage licenses should be reworked to either accommodate religious clerks or take them out of the process.

The latest Bluegrass Poll, released Thursday, found that 47 percent of registered voters believe Davis should remain in office while 46 percent want her removed. Another 7 percent were not sure.

That falls within the survey’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, meaning that voters are evenly divided.

“I’m a Christian, and I believe that a marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Iona O’Banion, one respondent in the poll.. “But she’s the county clerk. It is her job to issue marriage licenses. And if it is the law of the land, then that’s what she is supposed to do.”

O’Banion, a 78-year-old retiree in Owen County, said the attention Davis has brought to Kentucky has been “awful,” and she believes the clerk is only basking in the limelight.

“Everybody looks on us like we don’t have shoes and teeth,” she said. “I just feel like she is enjoying herself to the hilt.”

But David Smith, a Southern Baptist who lives in Richmond, said Davis should be allowed to continue serving without being forced to sign a document that conflicts with her Apostolic Christian religion.

“She has stood up for her religious beliefs, and I think there ought to be accommodations made to allow her to do that,” he said. “There are other officeholders that feel the same way, and this is going to be a problem from now on.”

Smith said he favors creating an online system for marriage licenses that removes county clerks from the process. However, he doubts the legislature will take the issue up next year out of political correctness.

Thursday’s poll found that 31 percent of registered voters believe the state should create an online system for marriage licenses.

Another 29 percent say county clerks who oppose same-sex marriage should be allowed to remove their names from the forms.

Meanwhile, 34 percent of those surveyed said lawmakers should leave the system alone and require clerks to issue licenses to all couples, regardless of personal beliefs.

Conducted by SurveyUSA, the Bluegrass Poll is a joint effort by The Courier-Journal, the Lexington Herald-Leader, WHAS-11 and WKYT-TV. It gauged the opinions of 1,016 registered voters from Oct. 23-26.

Davis received some of her biggest support from conservatives, voters over the age of 65 and those who live in rural areas. Those groups also were more likely to favor accommodations for religious clerks.

Liberals, younger voters, people with a four-year degree and those living in more urban areas tended to believe that Davis should be removed from office. Political moderates also favored removal 58 percent to 30 percent.

As an elected official, Davis can only be removed from office through impeachment. The Kentucky House of Representatives would have to charge her with an impeachable offense, and the Senate would then try her. But that’s viewed as unlikely given Kentucky’s political makeup.

Regarding licenses, at least two bills have been pre-filed for the 2016 General Assembly.

One would move licensing duties from county clerks to the state registrar of vital statistics. The other would specify that forcing someone to issue or record a marriage license over their religious objections would violate the state’s religious freedom law.

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said Thursday that the plurality of voters are right in opposing changes to the license process.

“There is no need to make changes, and the state legislature doesn’t need to waste taxpayer dollars and time debating a system that is not broken,” he said.

He said using an online system would create problems verifying people’s identity and that allowing clerks to remove their names would open the door to a never-ending cycle of exemptions. He, likewise, argues that the Kim Davis situation will be resolved without intervention from the legislature.

“She will either be compelled by the court to follow the law, or she is going to have to resign,” Hartman said.

Still, the Rev. Randy Smith, an evangelist in Rowan County who supports Davis, said he was encouraged that 60 percent of respondents are calling for some type of action to help county clerks.

He said that Kentucky should not even be in the position of needing legislation to prop up the First Amendment and that the Beshear administration should have anticipated issues.

“If we don’t have religious liberty, we don’t have a nation,” Smith said. “I would be willing to pay all of my tax dollars to this very subject to preserve religious liberty.”

Smith also said that responses to the question on removing Davis would have reflected more support for the clerk if poll respondents had more answers to choose from.

“If people understood more about the importance and the value of religious liberty, even into local as well as state and federal levels, I think they would be more in favor of religious liberty,” he said.

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