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Kentucky County Clerk Jailed for Refusing to Issue Same Sex Marriage Licenses

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis found in contempt

"This situation absolutely didn’t have to happen, if only Kim Davis followed the law," stated HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.  (Photo: Elvert Barnes/cc/flickr)

A federal judge on Thursday found Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who has refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, in contempt of court and ordered her to jail.

Reuters reports that

Davis has refused to issue licenses to any couples, gay or straight, since the U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution, citing her beliefs as an Apostolic Christian.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this week:

Backing up this year's landmark equality ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a Kentucky county clerk's request to deny issuing same-sex marriage certificates on the grounds of religious preference.

In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that the Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis could not 'opt out' of her duties as a public official because of her personal objections.

The ruling marks the court's first foray into a series of pending legal battles following the Obergefell v. Hodges et. al. decision in June. Davis attempted to appeal that decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court. When her stay was denied, she requested a stay pending appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court so that she could continue to refuse to issue marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning said Thursday, "Her good-faith belief is simply not a viable defense," and said that she would be jailed until she complied with the ruling to issue licenses.

Though lawyers for the couples had only asked that a fine be given to Davis, Bunning said that wouldn't be enough motivation for her to resume issuing licenses.  "I don't do this lightly," he said. "It's necessary in this case."

Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a civil rights organization, said the contempt of court ruling showed David was being held accountable.

"This situation absolutely didn’t have to happen, if only Kim Davis followed the law," stated HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.

"Same-sex couples in Rowan County have a constitutional right to marry the person they love in the place they call home, and they’ve shamefully, repeatedly been prevented from exercising that right," Warbelow continued. "The time has now come for the staff in the Rowan County Clerk’s office to follow the law and immediately begin issuing those couples their long overdue marriage licences." 

The Louisville-based Fairness Campaign captured scenes of marriage equality supporters outside the courthouse:

Also on Thursday, ahead of Davis' appearance before Judge Bunning, Democracy Now! spoke with David Moore, who has been denied a marriage licence by Davis and her staffers three times. Watch the segment below:

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