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Defying Multiple Court Orders, Rowan County Clerk Refuses To Issue Marriage Licenses

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Associated Press
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The latest on a Kentucky county clerk who has refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against her:

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in June, but no one in Rowan County, Kentucky, has been able to get married since then.

Here's why:

WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT KENTUCKY?

County clerks issue marriage licenses in Kentucky. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is a Christian, a member of the apostolic church, and believes gay marriage is a sin. She also believes it would be a sin for her to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple because that license would have her name on it. Rather than discriminate between gay and straight couples, she stopped issuing all marriage licenses the day after the Supreme Court's ruling.

CAN SHE DO THAT?

Not according to the courts. As a constitutionally elected officer, Davis is her own boss. No one can force her to do anything. While state law requires county clerks to issue marriage licenses to all eligible applicants, Davis says her First Amendment rights protect her religious freedom, but federal courts rejected that argument.

CAN SHE BE FIRED FOR NOT DOING HER JOB?

Yes, but it's extremely difficult. About the only way she can be removed from office would be for the state legislature to impeach her. That is unlikely, given the conservative makeup of the state General Assembly. The state could charge her with official misconduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. But Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway would have to appoint a special prosecutor to make that happen. It would be a politically risky move for Conway, who is running for governor in a conservative state.

HAS ANYONE SUED HER?

Yes. Six couples. Four of them - two straight couples and two gay couples - teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union for one lawsuit. After two hearings and many briefs, a federal judge ordered Davis to issue the marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis appealed to the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals and lost. She appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost again.

SO DID SHE START ISSUING LICENSES?

No. On Tuesday, Davis again denied several same-sex couples' request for marriage licenses. She said she was acting under "God's authority."

HOW CAN SHE GET AWAY WITH DEFYING A FEDERAL COURT ORDER?

She can't, at least not without consequences. Four couples have asked a federal judge to punish her for refusing to issue the licenses. The judge could even throw her in jail until she agrees to issue the licenses. But the couples have specifically asked the judge not to do that. Instead, they've asked him to make her pay potentially heavy fines.

HOW MUCH IS THE FINE?

We don't know yet. The judge has ordered Davis and her six deputy clerks to attend a federal court hearing Thursday. There, he will ask Davis why she has not complied with his order and hear arguments from the other side on what fines he should impose. He'll make a decision sometime after that.

THEN WHAT HAPPENS?

Davis will either pay the fine or if she does not, that could trigger more sanctions.

2:15 p.m.

A federal judge says a Kentucky county clerk who won't issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of her religious beliefs has until close of business Wednesday to respond to the latest motion in the case.

On Tuesday, as Rowan County clerk Kim Davis continued to deny licenses to couples despite a Supreme Court ruling against her, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered her and her six deputy clerks to appear at a federal court hearing Thursday.

Davis has previously testified that of her six employees, four share her beliefs, one is uncertain, and one employee doesn't have a problem issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her, and U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered her to issue the licenses. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that order. But Davis still refused to issue the licenses Tuesday morning.

The couples named in the lawsuit have asked Bunning to hold Davis in contempt of court and fine her for her continued refusal to grant licenses. They specifically asked that he not send her to jail.

12:50 p.m.

The Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples has revealed some details of her religious beliefs in a statement that follows a Supreme Court decision against her.

In the Tuesday statement, Rowan County clerk Kim Davis says she owes her life to Jesus Christ.

She says: "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."

She also says that "to issue a marriage license which conflicts with God's definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience."

She calls her decision one of obedience to God and says she won't resign.

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12:35 p.m.

The Kentucky clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licenses despite a Supreme Court ruling against her says she won't resign or violate her religious beliefs about same-sex couples.

In a statement Tuesday, clerk Kim Davis says that despite calls for her resignation, she has done her job in Rowan County well.

But she says that issuing marriage licenses to gay couples would "violate my conscience." She calls it "a Heaven or Hell decision."

Davis also it's not "a gay or lesbian issue," but rather a "matter of religious liberty, which is protected under the First Amendment."

The county attorney says Davis and her deputy clerks have been called to appear in federal court on Thursday morning.

11:20 a.m.

An attorney says the Kentucky clerk who won't issue marriage licenses and all her deputy clerks have been called for a federal court hearing Thursday morning.

Rowan County Attorney Cecil Watkins says the federal court alerted him that a hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday in Ashland.

Watkins says clerk Kim Davis is summonsed to attend, along with all the deputy clerks who work in her office.

Davis stopped issuing licenses in the days after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. A federal judge ordered her to issue them, and an appeals court upheld that decision. Still, she turned away couples.

The Supreme Court declined to intervene on Monday, leaving Davis no legal grounds to refuse. But her office turned away several couples Tuesday morning. Davis invoked "God's authority" in doing so.

Attorneys for the two gay couples who originally sued in the case have asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to hold Davis in contempt. They want Davis punished only with fees, not jail time.

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10:40 a.m.

Two gay couples have asked a federal judge to punish a Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue them marriage licenses by fining her, but not sending her to jail.

Lawyers for the couples filed the motion to hold Rowan County clerk Kim Davis in contempt of court on Tuesday morning, shortly after her office refused again to issue the licenses — this time despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against her.

Davis says her office is doing so "under God's authority."

The latest motion in the case asks U.S. District Judge David Bunning to hold Davis in contempt. Bunning will probably hold a hearing for the gay couples to present evidence, which could include testimony from Davis herself. Bunning would then decide on punishment. That could include fines, jail time or both, but the motion asks the judge to impose only financial penalties.

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9:40 a.m.

The husband of a Kentucky county clerk who's refusing to issue gay marriage licenses despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling says his wife is committed to her faith and is "standing for God."

Joe Davis arrived at the Rowan County courthouse Tuesday morning to check on his wife, clerk Kim Davis, shortly after she again denied the licenses to several couples.

Joe Davis says his wife has received death threats, and the couple changed their phone number. But he says he's not afraid and believes in the Second Amendment.

He said: "I'm an old redneck hillbilly, that's all I've got to say. Don't come knocking on my door."

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to intervene, leaving Kim Davis no legal grounds to refuse to grant licenses. A district judge could now hold her in contempt, which can carry steep fines or jail time.

Joe Davis compared his wife to the biblical figures Paul and Silas, sent to prison and rescued by God.

He pointed to the gay rights protesters gathered on the courthouse lawn and said: "They want us to accept their beliefs and their ways. But they won't accept our beliefs and our ways."

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9:05 a.m.

The office of a defiant county clerk in Kentucky has denied a marriage license to another gay couple.

On Tuesday morning, James Yates and Will Smith Jr. marched into Rowan County clerk Kim Davis' office. It was their fifth attempt to obtain a marriage license, and they once again were turned away.

They left red-eyed and shaking, and declined to talk to reporters gathered at the office.

Davis says her office is continuing to deny marriage licenses to gay couples "under God's authority."

She stopped issuing licenses the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case, leaving Davis no legal grounds to refuse to grant licenses. A district judge could now hold her in contempt, which can carry steep fines or jail time.

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8:40 a.m.

After a defiant county clerk in Kentucky refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, law enforcement authorities have cleared out the office of the hundreds of people packed inside to support both sides of the issue.

The sheriff's office in Rowan County told clerk Kim Davis' supporters and gay rights activists to leave on Tuesday morning.

The two groups lined up on either side of the courthouse entrance to chant at each other.

David Ermold has been rejected by Davis' office four times. He said: "I feel like I've been humiliated on such a national level."

He hugged David Moore, his partner of 17 years. They cried as Davis's supporters marched by shouting, "Stand firm."

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to intervene in the case, leaving Davis no legal grounds to refuse to grant licenses. A district judge could now hold her in contempt, which can carry steep fines or jail time

The rejected couples' supporters called the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit on their behalf. They asked that their attorneys file to have Davis held in contempt.

Randy Smith, leading the group supporting Davis, says he knows following their instruction to "stand firm" might mean Davis goes to jail on contempt charges.

He said: "But at the end of the day, we have to stand before God, which has higher authority than the Supreme Court."

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8:20 a.m.

A county clerk in Kentucky who is continuing to deny marriage licenses to gay couples says she's doing so "under God's authority."

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis emerged from her office Tuesday morning after some couples were denied the licenses. She asked David Moore and David Ermold, who've been rejected four times, to leave. They refused, surrounded by reporters and cameras.

Ermold said: "We're not leaving until we have a license."

Davis responded: "Then you're going to have a long day."

Davis' supporters whooped from the back of the room: "Praise the Lord" and "stand your ground."

Others shouted that Davis is a bigot and told her: "Do your job."

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to intervene in the case, leaving Davis no legal grounds to refuse to grant licenses to gay couples. A district judge could now hold her in contempt, which can carry steep fines or jail time.

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8:10 a.m.

A defiant county clerk in Kentucky has again refused to issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Tuesday morning, as Rowan County clerk Kim Davis' office opened, two couples were denied licenses.

A deputy clerk told April Miller and Karen Roberts, who walked into the office trailed by dozens of television cameras, that no licenses would be issued and refused to make Davis available.

A second couple, David Moore and David Ermold, rejected a fourth time, are demanding to speak with Davis.

Ermold shouted: "Tell her to come out and face the people she's discriminating against."

Davis is in her office, with the door and the blinds closed.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to intervene in the case, leaving Davis no legal grounds to refuse to grant licenses to gay couples. A district judge could now hold her in contempt, which can carry steep fines or jail time.

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