Clerks in Kentucky's Rowan County have been ordered to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. But their defiant boss Kim Davis has refused to comply with the rules and is now in jail.
US District Judge David Bunning said he had no choice but to send Rowan County clerk Kim Davis to jail for not agreeing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Davis, who has been against the US Supreme Court ruling permitting gay marriages, insisted that her conscience would not allow her to follow the federal court's decision.
"Marriage is a union between one man and one woman," Davis said when she was being questioned in court earlier.
Before she was taken away by police officers, she said, "God's moral law conflicts with my job duties…You can't separate something that's in your heart and in your soul."
However, Bunning managed to elicit a pledge from five of Davis' deputies, who said they would authorize marriages between same sex partners. He also said he could allow Davis to go free if she promised not to interfere with her deputies' work, but her lawyers argued that their client could deny her subordinates the right to issue official papers to gay couples.
Same sex couples in Rowan County would now have to test whether the officers carried out the orders, Bunning told the court.
Not 'above the law'
Davis' lawyers compared her to Martin Luther King Junior's fight for civil rights and said everybody should "mourn the fact that her freedom has been taken away for what she believes."
But Judge Bunning said Davis' "good faith belief" was not a viable defense and that no individual's convictions should be allowed to supersede a court's authority. The White House also confirmed it was a matter to be dealt with courts, while emphasizing that no public official was "above the rule of law, certainly not the president of the United States, but neither is the Rowan County clerk."
Thurday's trial was a culmination of months of court cases against Davis's refusal to comply with the US Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of gay marriages nationwide in June this year. Davis however, stopped issuing licenses to all couples in her county, straight and gay, after the ruling.
Several conservatives have meanwhile rallied in her support, including Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
The clerk now hopes Kentucky laws will change and she can keep her job while adhering to her beliefs. Until then, Judge Bunning says he has no choice but to keep her in prison.
mg/rg (AP, Reuters)