September 1, 2015 at 10:50 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Ky. clerk defies Supreme Court on marriage
Kentucky, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Gage Skidmore; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A Kentucky clerk continued on Tuesday to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples in her office despite a recent order from the U.S. Supreme Court rebuffing her request to enforce her “no licenses” policy, placing her at risk of being found in contempt of court.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian, shut down marriage operations in her office citing religious objections after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. Despite a district court order and denial of a stay from the Supreme Court, she’s shown on video Tuesday denying marriage licenses in her office.

When one of the individuals in her office indignantly asks under what authority she’s declining to provide the marriage licenses, Davis replies, “Under God’s authority.”

Another individual angrily points out his tax dollars are paying her salary for her to discriminate against him and his partner of 17 years. He asks Davis, who’s been married four times, what’s the longest she’s been wed to someone. She responds by asking them to leave, and when they refuse, tells them to stay back from the counter. The couple threatens to call the police as she retreats further into her office.

Watch the video here:

UPDATE: Attorneys for the same-sex couples who filed a lawsuit against Davis to compel her to issue marriage licenses submitted on Tuesday a motion in federal court to hold the clerk in contempt. The seven-page filing maintains fines, not imprisonment, is the appropriate punishment for Davis.

“Plaintiffs do not seek to compel Davis’ compliance through incarceration,” the filing states. “Since Defendant Davis continues to collect compensation from the Commonwealth for duties she fails to perform, Plaintiffs urge the the Court to impose financial penalties sufficiently serious and increasingly onerous to compel Davis’ immediate compliance without further delay.”

In a one-page order, U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who issued the preliminary injunction against Davis, instructs her and deputy clerks to appear before the federal court for a contempt hearing on Thursday at 11 a.m. Bunning gives Davis until the end of the day on Wednesday to respond to the contempt charges.

Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement the need for a contempt hearing is unfortunate. The ACLU is co-counsel in the case.

“It is unfortunate that we’ve been compelled to take further action today to ensure that the people of Rowan County can obtain the marriage licenses they’re entitled to receive from their County Clerk’s office,” Shapiro said. “The law is clear and the courts have spoken. The duty of public officials is to enforce the law, not place themselves above it.”

UPDATE: In a statement on the Liberty Counsel’s website, Davis explains she intends to remain in her position despite calls for her to resign, saying for her the matter “is a Heaven or Hell decision.”

Her full statement follows:

I have worked in the Rowan County Clerk’s office for 27 years as a Deputy Clerk and was honored to be elected as the Clerk in November 2014, and took office in January 2015. I love my job and the people of Rowan County. I have never lived any place other than Rowan County. Some people have said I should resign, but I have done my job well. This year we are on track to generate a surplus for the county of 1.5 million dollars.

In addition to my desire to serve the people of Rowan County, I owe my life to Jesus Christ who loves me and gave His life for me. Following the death of my godly mother-in-law over four years ago, I went to church to fulfill her dying wish. There I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God.

I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word. It is a matter of religious liberty, which is protected under the First Amendment, the Kentucky Constitution, and in the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Our history is filled with accommodations for people’s religious freedom and conscience. I want to continue to perform my duties, but I also am requesting what our Founders envisioned – that conscience and religious freedom would be protected. That is all I am asking. I never sought to be in this position, and I would much rather not have been placed in this position. I have received death threats from people who do not know me. I harbor nothing against them. I was elected by the people to serve as the County Clerk. I intend to continue to serve the people of Rowan County, but I cannot violate my conscience.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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