Kentucky accommodates conscience for other licenses. Why not marriage? Yet Gov. Steven L. Beshear issued a mandate telling all county clerks to issue licenses to same-sex couples without exception. When asked to call a special session of the Legislature to try to work out a reasonable accommodation, he said it could wait until January.

That’s why Ms. Davis ended up in court. But it shouldn’t have gotten to the point where this county clerk was being hailed as either a hero or a villain. The Kentucky Legislature should have looked instead to North Carolina.

Sensing that the Supreme Court might redefine marriage, the North Carolina Legislature passed a law earlier in June creating a system to accommodate — as far as possible — the conscientious beliefs of magistrates who objected to performing same-sex marriages and clerks who objected to issuing licenses.

The North Carolina law made clear that no eligible couple could be denied a marriage license, but officials could recuse themselves should they have sincere objections. By notifying a superior of their objection ahead of time, the clerks could protect their rights of conscience while ensuring that no couple would be inconvenienced.