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Kentucky county clerk refuses to wed gays

September 1, 2015

A same-sex couple has asked a judge to hold a Kentucky county clerk in contempt of court after she denied them a marriage license. The clerk said that according to her beliefs marriage was between one man and one woman.

Kim Davis
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/T. Easley

A county clerk in the US state of Kentucky has repeatedly refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, invoking her religious beliefs and "God's authority" in defiance of a US Supreme Court ruling permitting same-sex marriage.

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis rejected the Supreme Court's ruling to legalize gay marriage across America earlier this year. Citing her religious objections, Davis refused to issue any marriage licenses in the days after the landmark decision.

No 'straight' marriage licenses either

One of the couples affected by Davis' stance filed a motion on Tuesday asking US District Judge David Bunning to hold Davis in contempt of court.

During a call with attorneys for both sides, Bunning ordered Davis and her deputies to appear in federal court in Ashland, Kentucky.

Gay marriage opponents
Gay marriage opponents have staged protests outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DCImage: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

Last month the judge had said Davis had to live up to her responsibilities as county clerk despite her religious convictions. That decision came after a previous lawsuit against her.

The US Supreme Court has declined to intervene in the case so far, leaving Davis no legal grounds to refuse to grant licenses to gay couples. District judge David Bunning could now hold her in contempt, which can carry steep fines or jail time.

Bunning had previously issued a preliminary injunction requiring the clerk to issue marriage licenses, but stayed that injunction pending her legal appeal. However, the appeals court then rejected her request for a permanent stay, technically requiring Davis to issue marriage licenses as required of her office.

Official misconduct or 'asylum for conscience'

A spokeswoman for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said on Monday that his office was reviewing a request for a special prosecutor to determine if, by refusing to issue marriage licenses, Davis had committed a case of official misconduct. She said on Tuesday morning a final decision had yet to be made. Official misconduct is a misdemeanor in Kentucky that is punishable by up to 365 days in jail.

Davis' lawyers with the Liberty Counsel meanwhile filed a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court on Friday, asking that they grant her "asylum for her conscience."

ss/msh (Reuters, AP)

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