Kentucky clerk who won't issue same-sex marriage licenses is ordered to go to jail

A county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, who refused to issue gay-marriage licenses has been held in contempt of court and taken into custody.

The clerk, Kim Davis, appeared in court today before U.S. District Judge David Bunning. The Washington Post, the New York Times and the Courier-Journal have stories.

Davis says her religious beliefs prevent her from affixing her name to marriage licenses for gay couples, and she is acting according to “God’s authority.”

Bunning said in the hearing Thursday that Davis can be released from jail when she complies with his injunction requiring her to issue marriage licenses. “The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order,” Bunning said.

Meanwhile, five of Davis’ six deputies said they will start issuing marriage licenses Friday, USA Today reports. The holdout deputy is Kim Davis’ son, Nathan Davis.

Davis said through her lawyers that she won’t authorize any of her deputies to issue licenses in her absence, according to USA Today. Her lawyers question whether licenses issued tomorrow will be legal.

The case was before Bunning as a result of a suit by four couples challenging Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses. Bunning issued an injunction Aug. 12 ordering Davis to issue gay-marriage licenses, but stayed his order until Aug. 31. Both the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to extend the stay, allowing the injunction to take effect.

After the Supreme Court acted Monday, Davis continued to deny marriage licenses to gay couples, spurring the plaintiffs to ask Bunning to hold Davis in contempt. The plaintiffs asked Bunning to impose fines, but Bunning said a monetary penalty wasn’t sufficient to get Davis to comply.

Davis said during the hearing that her conscience wouldn’t allow her to comply with the court order. “God’s moral law convicts me and conflicts with my duties,” she said.

Bunning countered that Davis’ good-faith religious belief wasn’t a viable defense. “The idea of natural law superseding this court’s authority would be a dangerous precedent indeed,” he said.

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