Kentucky clerk sued for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis

Kim Davis

Kim Davis

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Four Kentucky couples are suing a clerk who is refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses — or any marriage license — following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that same-sex couples have a legal right to marry.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed a federal lawsuit against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis on Thursday afternoon on behalf of two same-sex and two heterosexual couples, all of whom were turned away when they tried to get marriage licenses from Davis’ office this week.

Davis has said that her Christian beliefs prevented her from complying with the Supreme Court decision, so she decided to issue no more marriage licenses to any couple, gay or straight. She could not be reached Thursday after the lawsuit was filed. Her office was already closed and she did not respond to an email.

She is among a handful of judges and clerks across the South who have defied the high court’s order, maintaining that the right to “religious freedom” protects them from having to comply.

In Tennessee on Thursday, the Decatur County clerk and two employees in the clerk’s office resigned due to their opposition to same-sex marriage, County Commissioner David Boroughs told The Jackson Sun.

In Alabama, however, one of the states where numerous clerks were refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, all counties appeared to be complying with the Supreme Court ruling as of Thursday, lawyers representing gay couples said.

In Louisiana, where most parish clerks had been issuing same-sex marriage licenses since Monday, the state Office of Vital Records, which issues the licenses in New Orleans, didn’t begin doing so until Thursday.

Immediately following the Supreme Court ruling last Friday, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear ordered all clerks to fall in line. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway followed up with a warning that failing to do so might open them up to civil liability.

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Officials have also warned that the defiant clerks could be risking criminal charges. Warren County Attorney Ann Milliken, president of the Kentucky County Attorneys Association, said clerks could be charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Some Kentucky clerks who at first resisted issuing same-sex marriage licenses changed course this week and agreed to sign them. But a few, Davis included, stood firm, despite the dozens of protesters outside her office in Morehead earlier this week.

She pledged to never issue a marriage license to a gay couple.

“It’s a deep-rooted conviction; my conscience won’t allow me to do that,” Davis said Tuesday. “It goes against everything I hold dear, everything sacred in my life.”

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