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Rowan County Denies Liability For County Clerk's Actions In Marriage License Lawsuit

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The government of Rowan County, Kentucky, has denied any liability for the actions of its county clerk, who stopped issuing marriage licences this summer after the Supreme Court lifted same-sex marriage bans throughout the U.S.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and the county are being sued by two same-sex and two opposite-sex couples who were recently denied marriage licenses by Davis' office.

But in a response filed Wednesday, the county government argues that the clerk “performs a state function and does not act on behalf of, or set policy for, the County.”

The county clerk says her religious convictions prevent her from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and she stopped issuing marriage licenses to all couples to avoid being accused of discrimination.

Davis and her attorneys say that her actions are protected by state and federal religious freedom laws, which prevent the state from burdening an individual’s religious beliefs.

Rowan County is one of at least two Kentucky counties that has stopped issuing marriage licenses following the Supreme Court ruling.

Gov. Steve Beshear has sent several directives to county clerks ordering them to issue marriage licenses to all couples who qualify, no matter their sexual orientation.

In the response filed on Wednesday, Rowan County stated that “the Governor’s letter speaks for itself and requires no further response from the County.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking damages against the county and Davis for “irreparable harms, including harms to their dignity and autonomy, family security, and access to the full spectrum of benefits conferred by the state upon others.”

In the response, Rowan County says that the plaintiffs “had a duty to mitigate their damages and have failed to do so.”

One of Davis’ attorneys, John Christman, accused the plaintiffs of singling out Davis by not getting married in other Kentucky counties.

“This case is by the day becoming much more about forcing Kim Davis as a person as an individual to approve and sign and authorize a marriage that she does not agree to and cannot call and deem marriage,” Christman said last week.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning says that a ruling in the case will come in the week of Aug. 11.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.