ROWAN COUNTY, Ky. (BP) — A county clerk in Kentucky defied a federal judge’s order to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Thursday (Aug. 13), turning away two men who arrived at her office as soon as it opened.
Kim Davis argues her Christian beliefs prevent her from issuing a same-sex marriage license because signing the document is tantamount to approving the marriage. Thursday evening, U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning dismissed that argument. But Davis, represented by Liberty Counsel, is appealing to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Until it can hear her case, she has declined to issue marriage licenses to any couples, gay or straight.
In his ruling, Bunning said Davis’ actions likely violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of government-sponsored religion because she is promoting her convictions “at the expenses of others.”
“Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs,” Bunning wrote. “She may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County Jail. She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do. However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk.”
Although couples could travel to another county to get a marriage license, they shouldn’t have to, Bunning said. He also dismissed Davis’ argument that she could be considered “absent” from her job because of her convictions, allowing the county judge-executive to issue marriage licenses instead.
In responding to the suit brought by five couples and the ACLU, Davis’ attorneys said U.S. Supreme court precedent was on their client’s side. In a case involving a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church fired for refusing to work on Saturdays, the high court ruled religious liberty trumps workplace responsibilities, according to Liberty Counsel.
“This case is not about couples who want to be married — they can easily get married in Kentucky,” said Roger Gannam, senior litigation attorney for Liberty Counsel. “This case is about crushing dissent and removing Christian public servants from office. Religion tests for holding elected office are unconstitutional and un-American.”