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Clerk loses, resists high court on marriage licenses

MOREHEAD, Ky.— A Kentucky county clerk not only lost at the U.S. Supreme Court Monday evening (Aug. 31) but now faces a likely contempt of court ruling for again refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and her deputies turned away gay couples seeking marriage licenses Tuesday morning (Sept. 1) at their office in the eastern Kentucky town of Morehead. Their refusal came after the high court denied Davis’ request to block enforcement of a federal judge’s order that she issue licenses for same-sex marriages.

Lawyers for the gay couples subsequently filed a contempt of court motion against Davis, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. David Bunning, the federal judge who previously ordered Davis to issue licenses, will consider Thursday the request she be held in contempt, according to the newspaper.

The Supreme Court’s denial of Davis’ application for a stay of the order came two months after the justices legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. That 5-4 ruling June 26 prompted some country clerks to resign their jobs rather than issue licenses to gay couples. Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses and has refused to resign, appealing for an accommodation of her religious beliefs in order for her to keep her job.

American history “is filled with accommodations for people’s religious freedom and conscience,” Davis said Sept. 1 in a statement issued by Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom advocacy organization that represents her. “I want to continue to perform my duties, but I also am requesting what our Founders envisioned — that conscience and religious freedom would be protected.”

The Supreme Court opinion in June did not rule out accommodations for the conscience rights of religious Americans, Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said Aug. 31 before the high court issued its denial.

“Providing religious conviction accommodations is not antithetical for public employees,” Staver said in a written release. “Throughout our history the courts have accommodated people’s deeply held religious beliefs.”

Among the accommodations suggested to the Supreme Court, Staver said, were removing Davis’ name from marriage licenses and permitting the county’s chief executive to issue licenses.

David Moore and David Ermold were among the same-sex couples whose requests for marriage licenses were rejected by Davis’ office Sept. 1.

“Who has to go through this to get married? This is 2015. This is America. This is what we pay taxes for — to be treated like this. To be discriminated against,” Moore told Davis, according to The Courier-Journal.

When asked under whose authority she was refusing to issue licenses, Davis said, “Under God’s authority.”

In her statement issued by Liberty Counsel, Davis said, “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience.

“To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word. It is a matter of religious liberty,” said Davis, who served as a deputy clerk for 27 years before winning election last year as county clerk.

Steven Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said in a written statement, “The duty of public officials is to enforce the law, not place themselves above it.” The ACLU and ACLU of Kentucky filed the contempt motions with Bunning.

Davis has appealed Bunning’s order to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, but a court delay preventing enforcement of the order expired Aug. 31.

She has sued Gov. Steve Beshear for ordering the state’s county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

— BP

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