Judge: Kentucky clerk must issue marriage licenses

Judge: Kentucky clerk must issue marriage licenses
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis

FRANKFORT, Kentucky — A federal judge ordered a county clerk in Kentucky to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying the clerk must follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was one of a handful of local elected officials across the country that stopped issuing marriage licenses after the court’s ruling in June. She said issuing a marriage license to a gay couple would violate her Christian beliefs and argued the U.S. Constitution protected her religious freedoms.

Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning said the couples should not be forced to travel to another county to get marriage licenses.

“Davis is certainly free to disagree with the court’s opinion, as many Americans likely do, but that does not excuse her from complying with it,” Bunning wrote. “To hold otherwise would set a dangerous precedent.”

April Miller, one of the plaintiffs, has been engaged to Karen Roberts for 11 years. They were the first couple to be denied in Rowan County and said they plan to return to the clerk’s office soon to get a license.

“We have our rings, we have an officiant, we have talked about food and cake and music and having a big party. We’re excited about it.” she said. “We need a license and we need a date.”

County clerks issue marriage licenses in Kentucky, but someone else must “solemnize” the marriage before the license can be filed with the county clerk. Davis argued that by issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple, she was authorizing that marriage and thus approving it. But Bunning rejected that argument.

“The state is not asking her to condone same-sex unions on moral or religious grounds, nor is it restricting her from engaging in a variety of religious activities,” Bunning wrote. “However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk.”

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