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Kentucky Official Denies Same-Sex Marriage License Despite Ruling

  • VOA News

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, talks with David Moore following her office's refusal to issue marriage licenses at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Kentucky, Sept. 1, 2015.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, talks with David Moore following her office's refusal to issue marriage licenses at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Kentucky, Sept. 1, 2015.

A local court clerk in the central state of Kentucky continues to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court ordering her to do so.

Local media reports that the office of Kim Davis, the elected court clerk in Kentucky's Rowan County, refused licenses to two same-sex couples Tuesday.

Davis told the couples that her office would not be issuing licenses today. When asked by one couple under whose authority the decision was made, she replied "under God's authority."

In a statement Tuesday, Davis said issuing marriage licenses to gay couples would "violate her conscience." She said it was not "a gay or lesbian issue," but rather a "matter of religious liberty, which is protected under the First Amendment."

"Religious liberty is not an absolute," said Chad Pecknold, an associate professor of theology at Catholic University of America.

"It has to be weighed against other options and here it was the concerns that there is a law which gives people the access to marriage licenses. She wasn’t satisfied just to deny same-sex couples, she was going to deny everyone marriage licenses as a form of protest, and I think the Supreme Court rightly decided that was an unreasonable accommodation," he said.

“There are legitimate claims, legitimate contentious objections which can be considered reasonable," Pecknold added, saying that the clerk could seek an individual exemption for religious reasons.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion to find Davis in contempt of court for refusing to issue the licenses. The ACLU said the court set a contempt hearing for Thursday.

The county attorney said Davis and all of her employees were to appear in federal court on Thursday.

Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses to all couples in the county in the wake of the high court's decision in June that legalized same-sex marriages across the nation.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan issued a ruling Monday against an emergency application filed by lawyers for Davis.

Her attorneys told the Supreme Court "this searing act of validation would forever echo in her conscience," if Davis were forced to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

A federal judge ordered Davis last month to issue marriage licenses to all eligible couples after four couples -- two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples -- filed a lawsuit against her, and an appeals court upheld the lower court's ruling. The lower court judge issued a temporary hold on his ruling that expired Monday. If Davis continues to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she could face heavy fines or jail time.

"This is about clerks in any state following the law of the land," said Laura Durso, director at the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. "Allowing one person to claim an objection on any basis could open a slippery slope and cause harm to same-sex couples across the country."

Meanwhile, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is deciding whether to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether Davis should face a charge of official misconduct for her actions.

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