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Christian Clerk In Kentucky Defies Judge’s Order To Start Issuing Marriage Licenses

Lawyers for Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who says issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates her religious rights, are asking that the ruling be put on hold pending an appeal.

Originally posted on
Updated on
AP / Timothy D. Easley

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, walks with her attorney, Roger Gannam, into the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington on July 20.

A county clerk in Kentucky disobeyed a judge's order Thursday and refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple claiming it violates her Christian faith, the Associated Press reported.

In his order regarding Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, U.S. District Court Judge David L. Bunning stated on Wednesday that the government "is not asking her to condone same-sex unions on moral or religious grounds, nor is it restricting her from engaging in a variety of religious activities."

“She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do,” the order continued. “However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk.”

Roger Gannam, an attorney for Davis, told BuzzFeed News that they filed an appeal with the 6th Circuit Court, and they plan to ask that Bunning put his ruling on hold in the meantime.

The case arose after Davis, an elected official, barred her six-person staff from issuing marriage licenses to all couples following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide.

In a case brought by four couples who had sought marriage licenses in Rowan County, Davis argued that anyone on her staff issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples would violate her religious conscience. Kentucky requires the head clerk's name to appear on all marriage license forms that come from their office. Davis argued that her name on those forms created a type of endorsement of same-sex couples marrying, which infringed on her faith.

Davis said couples seeking a marriage license could travel to another county.

But Bunning countered that approach in a 28-page order: “The form does not require the county clerk to condone or endorse same-sex marriage on religious or moral grounds. It simply asks the county clerk to certify that the information provided is accurate and that the couple is qualified to marry under Kentucky law. Davis’ religious convictions have no bearing on this purely legal inquiry.”

Bunning also noted that Davis took an oath to uphold the Constitution, but that her “actions have not been consistent with her words."

"Davis has refused to comply with binding legal jurisprudence, and in doing so, she has likely violated the constitutional rights of her constituents," Bunning wrote.

Daniel J. Canon, a cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Kentucky representing the four couples who brought the lawsuit, called Bunning's decision “a total victory for our clients.”

In issuing the preliminary injunction order — which immediately prohibits Davis from withholding licenses — Bunning found that the couples were likely to succeed as the case proceeds through the courts, pointing out that the clerk’s ban caused them irreparable harm.

Bunning also found barring state couples from obtaining licenses served no state interest:

Even if plaintiffs are able to obtain licenses elsewhere, why should they be required to? The state has long entrusted county clerks with the task of issuing marriage licenses. It does not seem unreasonable for plaintiffs, as Rowan County voters, to expect their elected official to perform her statutorily assigned duties. And yet, that is precisely what Davis is refusing to do.

Our form of government will not survive unless we, as a society, agree to respect the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions, regardless of our personal opinions. Davis is certainly free to disagree with the court’s opinion, as many Americans likely do, but that does not excuse her from complying with it. To hold otherwise would set a dangerous precedent.

Dominic Holden is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Dominic Holden at dominic.holden@buzzfeed.com.

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