WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday evening denied a Kentucky clerk's request to keep enforcing her "no marriage licenses" policy — an attempt to avoid issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples — while she appeals the trial court's preliminary ruling.
The Rowan County clerk, Kim Davis, argues that she should be exempted from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples because she has a religious objection.
Four couples — two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples — seeking to marry sued her, leading U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning to order Davis to stop enforcing her "no marriage licenses" policy against those couples.
He refused to put his order on hold while Davis appealed the order, but he temporarily put it on hold — just until Monday — so Davis could ask the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals if they would grant her a stay during her appeal. The 6th Circuit denied that request this past week, leading Davis to seek a stay from the Supreme Court.
Davis had argued that the state policy requiring her office to issue licenses to same-sex couples "substantially burden[s]" her religious freedom rights under the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions and Kentucky's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The court gave no reasons in Monday evening's brief order for denying her request that the trial court's order to be put on hold while she appeals the matter. No justices publicly announced that they would have granted the request.
During the business day on Monday, the Rowan County Clerk's Office was open but was still not issuing marriage licenses.
On Tuesday morning, there will be no question — at least as to the couples who sued Davis — that Davis is under a federal court's order to stop her "no marriage licenses" policy.
If Davis does not comply, a party could ask Bunning to hold her in contempt of court.
In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign's senior vice president for policy and political affairs, JoDee Winterhof, said, "Ms. Davis' choices are clear: she must either choose to follow the law or resign her public position."
A request for comment from Davis's lawyers at Liberty Counsel was not immediately returned.
The plaintiffs in the case are two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples. The story previously only identified the plaintiffs as same-sex couples.
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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