Kentucky Governor: Clerk's arguments 'absurd' and 'obtuse'

KY Governor: Kim Davis' Statements Show 'Absurdity'

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear's lawyers are using the words "absurd," ''forlorn" and "obtuse" to describe the legal arguments a county clerk has used to avoid issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis, who spent five days in jail for defying a series of federal court orders, filed a lawsuit against the governor, alleging he violated her religious freedom by asking clerks to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, which effectively legalized gay marriage across the nation. Beshear reiterated a request Tuesday that a judge toss the suit.

SEE ALSO: Clerk jailed over gay marriage says pope encouraged her

"Simply stated, Davis' role is a legal one — not a moral or religious one," Beshear's attorneys wrote in the court document.

The day the Supreme Court handed down its ruling, Beshear sent a letter to the state's 120 county clerks explaining how the state intended to 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, and advised the clerks that the state's marriage license template would be updated to remove "bride" and "groom."

Davis complained that in doing so he "commandeered" county clerks' offices and "usurped control of Kentucky marriage law."

More photos of Kim Davis since her refusal to issue marriage licenses:

9 PHOTOS
Kim Davis (Kentucky clerk) since her release from jail
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Kentucky Governor: Clerk's arguments 'absurd' and 'obtuse'
ABC NEWS - 9/21/15 - Paula Faris speaks to Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who went to jail because she refused to issue gay marriage licenses. The exclusive interview will air on all ABC News programs and platforms. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) PAULA FARIS, KIM DAVIS
ABC NEWS - 9/21/15 - Paula Faris speaks to Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who went to jail because she refused to issue gay marriage licenses. The exclusive interview will air on all ABC News programs and platforms. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) PAULA FARIS, KIM DAVIS, MATHEW STAVER (ATTORNEY)
ABC NEWS - 9/21/15 - Paula Faris speaks to Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who went to jail because she refused to issue gay marriage licenses. The exclusive interview will air on all ABC News programs and platforms. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) KIM DAVIS
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 14: Rowan County clerk Kim Davis walks through the halls of the courthouse on her first day back to work, after being released from jail last week, at the Rowan County Courthouse September 14, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Davis was jailed for disobeying a judges order for denying marriage licenses to gay couples on the basis of her religious faith. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
GRAYSON, KY - SEPTEMBER 8: Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis (L) holds her hands in the air with her attorney Mat Staver (C) and her husband Joe Davis (R) in front of the Carter County Detention Center on September 8, 2015 in Grayson, Kentucky. Davis was ordered to jail last week for contempt of court after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
GRAYSON, KY - SEPTEMBER 8: Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis (2L) joins hands with her attorney Mat Staver (2R), husband Joe Davis (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (L) in front of the Carter County Detention Center on September 8, 2015 in Grayson, Kentucky. Davis was ordered to jail last week for contempt of court after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
GRAYSON, KY - SEPTEMBER 8: Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis (L) walks off stage with her husband Joe Davis (R) in front of the Carter County Detention Center on September 8, 2015 in Grayson, Kentucky. Davis was ordered to jail last week for contempt of court after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
GRAYSON, KY - SEPTEMBER 8: Kim Davis, Clerk of Courts in Rowan County, Kentucky, looks over at Mike Huckabee after she was released from six days of incarceration at the Carter County Detention Center on September 8, 2015 in Grayson, Kentucky. Davis was ordered to jail last week for contempt of court after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
GRAYSON, KY - SEPTEMBER 8: People hold signs in support of Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis during a rally in front of the Carter County Detention Center on September 8, 2015 in Grayson, Kentucky. Davis was ordered to jail last week for contempt of court after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
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Davis continued to refuse to license same-sex marriages. After four couples sued her, she ignored a series of federal court orders, continued turning couples away and spent five nights in jail for her defiance. She blames Beshear's letter for her legal troubles.

Beshear's lawyer, Palmer G. Vance, described Davis' continued legal battle as a "meritless assault on the rule of law." Even if Beshear had not instructed clerks to follow the law, the Supreme Court and subsequent court orders required her to do so, he wrote.

"At issue here are marriage licenses issued by the Office of Rowan County Clerk and not Kim Davis individually, as Kim Davis individually has no authority to issue such licenses," he wrote. "The Office of Rowan County Clerk does not have a right to free exercise of religion."

U.S. District Judge David Bunning is expected to rule soon on whether Davis' lawsuit against Beshear can continue.

Meanwhile, Davis' deputies began issuing licenses while she was behind bars. The judge released her with strict instructions not to interfere. As soon as she got out, she altered the licenses, replacing her name and office with the phrase, "pursuant to federal court order."

The couples who sued her then questioned the licenses' validity and asked the judge to order her to reissue them. That request also is pending before Bunning.

RELATED: See photos of the fight for marriage equality in Kentucky

15 PHOTOS
The fight for marriage equality in Kentucky, County Clerk Kim Davis
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Kentucky Governor: Clerk's arguments 'absurd' and 'obtuse'
Rowan County clerk Kim Davis is shown in this booking photo provided by the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Kentucky September 3, 2015. Davis was jailed on Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and a full day of court hearings failed to put an end to her two-month-old legal fight over a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding same-sex marriage. REUTERS/Carter County Detention Center/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX1R0AF
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: Michael Long (left) and Timothy Long, of Rowan County, raise their hands in front of a crowd of supporters after receiving their legal marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: A deputy clerk of the Clerk of Courts office fills out a marriage license for Timothy and Michael Long in the Rowan County Courthouse on Friday, September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Michael and Timothy live in Rowan County Kentucky. Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 14: Shannon (left) and Carmen Wampler-Collins walk out of the Rowan County Courthouse after receiving a legal marriage license from one of the Deputy Clerk of Courts September 14, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Rowan County clerk Kim Davis was jailed for disobeying a judge's order for denying marriage licenses to gay couples on the basis of her religious faith. Today was Davis' first day back to work, after being released from jail last week. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
Kentucky's Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, makes remarks after receiving the "Cost of Discipleship" award at a Family Research Council conference in Washington September 25, 2015. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan/File Photo
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 4: Jesse Cruz receives a hug from a same sex marriage supporter after he and his partner, Robbie Blankenship, received their legal marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse on September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Blankenship and Cruz, of Columbus, Ohio, went to the Clerk of Courts office this past Wednesday and were denied a marriage license by the Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis.Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: Michael Long and Timothy Long, of Rowan County, kiss in front of a crowd of supporters after receiving their legal marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 2: Robbie Blankenship (L) stands next to his partner of 20 years, Jesse Cruz, of Corpus Christie, Texas, as they speak with Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Citing a sincere religious objection, Davis, an Apostolic Christian, has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 2: Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz as they speak with her at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Citing a sincere religious objection, Davis, an Apostolic Christian, has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 2: Robbie Blankenship (L) and his partner of 20 years, Jesse Cruz, of Corpus Christie, Texas, leave the Rowan County Clerks Office after being denied a marriage license on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Citing a sincere religious objection, Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, who is an Apostolic Christian, has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
ASHLAND, KY - SEPTEMBER 3: Same-sex marriage supports demonstrate on the steps of the federal courthouse during Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis's hearing on September 3, 2015 in Ashland, Kentucky. Davis was held in contempt of court today after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: A same sex marriage supporter wears badges on the back of her back pack during a protest in front of the Rowan County Courthouse September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis speaks during an interview on Fox News Channel's 'The Kelly File' in New York September 23, 2015. A federal judge on Wednesday denied Davis a stay of his order requiring her office to issue marriage licenses to all eligible couples who want one, the latest setback for the Kentucky county clerk who went to jail rather than issue licenses to gay couples. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Demonstrators stand on the front steps of the federal building waving a rainbow flag in protest of Rowan County clerk Kim Davis' arrival to attend a contempt of court hearing for her refusal to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples at the United States District Court in Ashland, Kentucky, September 3, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Tilley
Kim Davis hugs her attorney Mathew Staver (R) after walking out of jail in Grayson, Kentucky September 8, 2015. U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered her release after six days in jail, saying she "shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples." REUTERS/Chris Tilley
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