Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ky. clerk ordered to issue marriage licenses turned away a same-sex couple on Thursday morning

UPDATE, Aug. 26: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the clerk's request for a stay of the injunction while she appeals it. A three-judge panel of the court found "little or no likelihood that the clerk in her official capacity will prevail on appeal," because "It cannot be defensibly argued that the holder of the Rowan County clerk's office, apart from who personally occupies that office, may decline to act in conformity with the United States Constitution as interpreted by a dispositive holding of the United States Supreme Court." For a Lexington Herald-Leader story, click here.

UPDATE, Aug. 17: The judge refused to grant the stay the clerk requested, but issued a temporary stay until she can appeal his refusal. UPDATE, Aug. 13: Despite a federal injunction, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has already turned away at least one same-sex couple trying to obtain a marriage license, Mike Wynn reports for The Courier-Journal. "David Moore, who is trying to marry his partner of 17 years, David Ermold, visited the clerk's office early Thursday, but a deputy clerk told him that the office is still not issuing the forms."

A federal judge in Kentucky has ordered marriage licenses to be issued by a county clerk who stopped issuing them because of her religious objections to the recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all states.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, left, appealed, and her lawyer said he would ask U.S. District Judge David Bunning to stay his order until the appeal could be heard. Davis had already filed suit against Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who said after the ruling that clerks were duty-bound to issue marriage licenses despite their religious beliefs. At least three other clerks, in Casey, Clinton and Whitley counties, all in Appalachia, have said they won't issue marriage licenses, but haven't been sued.

Bunning, a son of former Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., said in granting a preliminary injunction against Davis that the state "is not asking her to condone same-sex unions on moral or religious grounds," or restraining her religious activities. "She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do," Bunning wrote in his 28-page order. He said her objections are sincere, but "Her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County clerk."

Bunning ruled in a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union for two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples, alleging Davis violated their constitutional rights. "The couples argue that they live, work and pay taxes in Rowan County and shouldn’t have to drive elsewhere to obtain the paperwork," Mike Wynn reportsfor The Courier-Journal. Bunning noted that seven county seats are less than an hour's drive from Morehead, the seat of Rowan, "but there are individuals in this rural region of the state who simply do not have the physical, financial or practical means to travel." (C-J photo by Wynn)

Noting that "57 of the state’s 120 elected county clerks have asked Governor Beshear to call a special session of the state legislature to address religious concerns related to same-sex marriage licenses," Bunning asked, "What would stop the other 56 clerks from following Davis’ approach?" if he ruled in her favor. "What might be viewed as an inconvenience for residents of one or two counties quickly becomes a substantial interference when applicable to approximately half of the state."

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