Details on Kentucky clerk who won't grant marriage licenses

AP News
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Posted: Sep 08, 2015 4:15 PM
Details on Kentucky clerk who won't grant marriage licenses

GRAYSON, Ky. (AP) — A county clerk in Kentucky was found in contempt of court and jailed for several days over her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She was released Tuesday.

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TIME IN JAIL

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled Thursday that Rowan County clerk Kim Davis was in contempt of court for refusing his order to issue marriage licenses. He ordered her to jail, and she was held at the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Kentucky.

Bunning had offered to release Davis if she would promise not to interfere with the five of her six employees who said they would start issuing licenses. But Davis rejected that offer, choosing to stay in jail.

On Tuesday morning, attorneys for the four couples who originally sued in the case filed a report that Bunning had requested to update him on their attempts to get marriage licenses. The notice said three of the four couples — two gay, one straight — had successfully received licenses.

Shortly after that notice was filed, Bunning ordered Davis' release. He also ordered her not to interfere with the issuing of marriage licenses from her office.

Davis was released Tuesday afternoon.

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CLERK'S DEFENSE

Davis, an apostolic Christian, says gay marriage is a sin. She stopped issuing all marriage licenses in June the day after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriages nationwide. She says that because marriage licenses are issued under her authority, it would be a sin for her to grant them to same-sex couples.

"God's moral law conflicts with my job duties," Davis told the judge before she was jailed. "You can't be separated from something that's in your heart and in your soul."

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WHAT'S NEXT?

Davis' lawyer, Mat Staver with the Christian firm Liberty Counsel, refused to say Tuesday whether Davis would obey Bunning's order that she not interfere with marriage licensing in her office upon her release.

"Kim Davis cannot and will not violate her conscience," Staver said. He said Davis is loyal to God and to her job, but he refused to elaborate or say when Davis would return to work.

Staver also says the licenses issued in Davis' absence are invalid. But Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, confirmed Tuesday that the office evaluated the licenses issued in Davis' absence and believes they are valid.

Staver says the problem is that the licenses were issued under the authority of Kim Davis' name, whether her name is on them or not.

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ROLE OF THE GOVERNOR, LEGISLATURE

Davis has said she hopes the state General Assembly will change Kentucky laws to find some way for her to keep her job while following her conscience. But unless the governor convenes a costly special session, state lawmakers won't meet until January. So far, Beshear has refused to call a session. He reiterated his stance Tuesday after Davis' release.

Davis has refused to resign her $80,000-a-year job. As an elected official, she can lose her job only if she is defeated in an election or is impeached by the state Legislature. The latter is unlikely given the conservative nature of the state General Assembly.

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NEARBY, IN NORTH CAROLINA

Under a law that took effect June 11, North Carolina employees who issue marriage licenses or can preside over civil ceremonies may refuse to do so by invoking their religious beliefs.

So far, more than 30 magistrates in the state have refused to perform weddings under the law. That represents nearly 5 percent of the state's 670 magistrates. Around a dozen other register of deeds workers who issue licenses also sought recusals shortly after the law took effect.

The chief District Court judge or the county register of deeds — both elected officials — fill in on marriages if needed when employees refuse.

The law exempts court officials with a "sincerely held religious objection" and is designed for those opposing gay marriage, but recusals apply to all marriages. Only Utah has a similar recusal law.

State Sen. Phil Berger, who sponsored the law, said it's probably preventing situations like the one in Kentucky.

Some Democrats have said legal challenges to the law are likely.


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