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Kentucky clerk can continue refusing to issue marriage licenses

Davis, through her attorney, declined to be interviewed. Acquaintances describe her as easygoing but reserved. She hid behind her attorneys to avoid being photographed in a courthouse hallway and had to be told to speak up from the witness stand.

Beneath her quiet nature lies a steadfast resolve not to compromise, even after a video of her refusing to issue a license to a gay couple, David Ermold and David Moore, generated more than a million views online.

Shortly after she took office in January, she said she wrote every state lawmaker she could and pleaded to change the law, to no avail. So, on June 26th — the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide — Davis told her staff not to process any more licenses until further notice, no matter who asked.

Under Kentucky law, marriages must be licensed by a county clerk, who first determines if the couple meet all legal requirements — such as being unmarried, and old enough. And because every license issued in Rowan County is under her authority, she feels she can’t delegate the job to a non-objector.

“If I say that I authorize that, I’m saying I agree with it, and I can’t,” Davis told the court.

Rowan County Judge Executive Walter Blevins can issue marriage licenses if the clerk is “absent,” but the term is undefined in state law. Both Blevins and Bunning decided Davis not issuing licenses for religious reasons does not mean she is absent. That leaves Davis, for now, firmly in control.

Davis said her beliefs on sin are shaped by “God’s holy word” in the Bible, and that she attends church “every time the doors are open.” She also leads a weekly women’s Bible study at the county jail.

“I love them. They’re the best part of my Monday,” Davis said.

Davis testified that the Bible teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman and that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Court records indicate Davis herself married when she was 18 in 1984, filed for divorce 10 years later, and then filed for divorce again, from another husband, in 2006.

Many Christians believe divorce also is a sin, and an attorney for the same-sex couples repeatedly questioned her about this in court. Asked if she would religiously object to issuing a marriage license to someone who has been divorced, she said, “That’s between them and God.”

Davis has not said how she would react should she lose her appeal.

“I’ll deal with that when the time comes,” she said.

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