By Steve Bittenbender
(Reuters) - A federal judge in Kentucky on Wednesday ordered a county clerk to resume issuing marriage licenses despite her religious objections to same-sex marriage.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning granted a preliminary injunction against Rowan County clerk Kim Davis that had been requested by eight people, including two same-sex couples, who sued Davis last month for violating their rights.
Bunning said Davis had to live up to her responsibilities as county clerk.
"Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic
Christian beliefs," Bunning wrote in his decision. "She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do. However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk."
Davis had stopped issuing all marriage licenses following the late June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized gay marriage. She had previously said her religious beliefs as an Apostolic Christian prevented her from issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
Bunning's injunction means Davis' office will have to start processing marriage license applications again. However, lawyer Roger Gannam, who represents Davis, said his client planned to appeal the injunction. When asked whether she would honor the judge's decision, he said, "At this point, it's too early to say what our client will do."
Gannam added that he believes the case will ultimately be decided by the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
An attorney for the plaintiffs was reviewing the decision and did not have an immediate comment.
Shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear issued an order to the state's 120 county clerks to begin processing same sex marriage licenses. However, a few decided to disregard it because of what they said was their Christian belief that marriage can be only between a man and a woman.
(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender, Editing by Ben Klayman and Sandra Maler)