By Steve Bittenbender
LOUISVILLE, Ky (Reuters) - A Kentucky county clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples said that doing so would violate her religious beliefs as she asked a judge on Friday to delay his order to process applications for the licenses.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis should not have to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples until the issue is resolved in court, attorneys for Davis wrote in a response filed with the U.S. District Court in Ashland, Kentucky.
Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling legalizing gay marriage because her religious beliefs as an Apostolic Christian prevented her from recognizing same-sex marriages.
In the Friday filing, Davis' attorneys said their client would be harmed if forced to issue the licenses now, but any affected gay and lesbian couples could simply turn to numerous other clerks' offices in the state for service.
"The issuance, authorization, and approval of a (same-sex marriage) license is the act that violates her conscience and substantially burdens her religious freedom," according to the response. "The record is clear that this harm is at her doorstep."
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning issued a preliminary injunction ordering Davis' office to process license applications from all couples, saying she had to live up to her responsibilities as county clerk despite her religious beliefs. Davis filed an appeal the same day, and the next day asked Bunning to stay his injunction.
Shortly after the Supreme Court's landmark ruling, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear ordered the state's 120 county clerks to begin processing same-sex marriage licenses. A few, including Davis, 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, Eric Beech and Lisa Lambert)