A Kentucky county clerk, defying a new U.S. Supreme Court decision and citing “God’s authority,” rejected requests for marriage licenses from same-sex couples on Tuesday in a deepening legal standoff now two months old.
Citing her religious objections, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has refused to issue any marriage licenses since the Supreme Court in June ruled that same-sex couples had the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution.
On Monday the same court rejected Davis’ request for an emergency order allowing her to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples while she appeals a federal judge’s order requiring her to issue them.
Eight people filed a federal lawsuit against Davis in July challenging her office’s policy of not issuing marriage licenses to any couples – gay or straight.
The couples on Tuesday filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge David Bunning to hold Davis in contempt of court, seeking fines but no jail time for the clerk. They also filed a motion asking the judge to clarify that Davis must issue licenses to everybody, not just the four couples in the case.
While issues related to gay marriage have risen in courts in several states, the American Civil Liberties Union said the organization was unaware of any other U.S. county clerk refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
“The vast majority of the country has been in compliance with the law without incidence. She’s an outlier,” ACLU national spokeswoman Allison Steinberg said of Davis.
During a call with attorneys for both sides, Bunning ordered Davis and her deputies to appear in federal court in Ashland, Kentucky, on Thursday, said Joe Dunman, attorney for one of the couples who had sued.
Last month the judge said Davis had to live up to her responsibilities as county clerk despite her religious convictions.
Dunman said Davis’ office rejected a request on Tuesday for a marriage license from same-sex couple April Miller and Karen Ann Roberts, his clients.
Will Smith and James Yates, another same-sex couple, also were denied a license on Tuesday, their attorney Kash Stilz said. A third same-sex couple, David Ermold and David Moore, also were denied a license.
“We were denied again,” Moore said in a text message. “We spoke with Kim again and it was a very heated exchange.”
‘UNDER GOD’S AUTHORITY’
Neither Davis’ office nor her attorneys could be reached immediately for comment, but Kentucky Public Radio quoted her as saying on Tuesday that she made the decision to continue denying marriage licenses “under God’s authority.”
Davis also told a gay couple she turned away, “I just want you all to know that we are not issuing marriage licenses today,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Miller said an official in the clerk’s office told Miller and her partner that Davis would go on denying marriage licenses pending an appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Outside the office in Morehead, Kentucky, large crowds supporting both sides on the issue gathered and chanted slogans.
Those supporting the rights of the same-sex couples chanted, “What do we want? Equality,” said Chris Hartman, director of the Louisville-based Fairness Campaign. On the other side, backers of Davis included a person dressed as a Revolutionary War patriot.
Bunning previously issued a preliminary injunction requiring the clerk to issue marriage licenses, but stayed that pending her appeal to the appeals court, which then rejected her request for a permanent stay saying she had little chance of prevailing.
A spokeswoman for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said on Monday that his office is reviewing a request for a special prosecutor to determine if Davis committed official misconduct. She said on Tuesday morning a final decision had yet to be made.
Official misconduct is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 365 days in jail, the spokeswoman said.
Davis says that to approve marriage licenses for same-sex applicants would violate her deeply held religious belief that matrimony is between one man and one woman.