U.S. Supreme Court

Defiant county clerk refuses to issue marriage licenses despite SCOTUS action

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Updated: A county clerk in Kentucky who objects to gay marriage on religious grounds is continuing to refuse to issue marriage licenses, despite Supreme Court action on Monday.

The order by the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay a federal judge’s injunction requiring the clerk, Kim Davis, to issue marriage licenses. On Tuesday, Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to several same-sex couples, citing “God’s authority,” the Washington Post and the Associated Press report.

After Davis’ refusal on Tuesday, police officers cleared Davis’ office of hundreds of people who had gathered to show support either for Davis or for the gay couples, according to the AP account. The supporters and detractors then lined up on either side of the courthouse entrance and chanted at each other.

Later in the day, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to show cause why she should not be held in contempt, the Associated Press reports.

The Supreme Court refused to stay the federal judge’s injunction in its brief order (PDF) on Monday. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) and the Washington Post have stories on the Supreme Court action.

Davis’ stay request gave the Supreme Court its first chance to consider whether government officials could cite religious beliefs in refusing to comply with its June decision establishing a constitutional right to gay marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges.

Davis, the county clerk in Rowan County, is a devout Christian who believes marriage can only be a union between a man and a woman, according to an emergency stay application (PDF) filed on her behalf by Liberty Counsel. She would have to affix her name to any marriage license issued by her office. If a same-sex marriage license is issued by her office, with her authorization, “no one can unring that bell. That searing act of validation would forever echo in her conscience,” the application says.

Kentucky’s governor has ordered all county clerks in the state to issue marriage licenses to all eligible couples. When Davis first refused to issue any marriage licenses, four couples sued. A federal judge in Kentucky issued a preliminary injunction ordering Davis to issue the marriage licenses but stayed his order until Aug. 31. Davis’ appeal is pending before the Cincinnati based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to stay the judge’s injunction.

The four couples are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. The case is Davis v. Miller.

Updated at 9:25 a.m. to report that Davis was continuing to refuse to issue marriage licenses. Headline and first paragraph changed at 11:55 a.m. to clarify that the clerk was defying a judge’s order, which was kept in place by the U.S. Supreme Court. Updated at 1:05 p.m. to include Bunning’s show cause order.

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