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Judge Orders Rowan County Clerk To Resume Issuing Marriage Licenses

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This story has been updated.

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to resume issuing marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning wrote in a 28-page opinion that Davis violated the constitutional rights of her constituents by refusing to issue marriage licenses, which she said goes against her religious beliefs as a Christian.

Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses to all couples in June, after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted same-sex marriage bans throughout the country. Two same-sex and two opposite-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in Rowan County then sued.

Davis argued her actions were protected by state and federal religious freedom laws, but Bunning disagreed.

"She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do," Bunning wrote in the opinion. "However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk."

One of Davis' attorneys, Roger Gannam, said a notice to appeal the ruling had already been filed with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals late Wednesday.

"The effect of this order is the government ordering a person to violate her sincerely-held religious beliefs, and that’s why we are appealing it," Gannam said.

Gannam said Davis would ask Bunning to stay his ruling.

Rowan County is one of at least two Kentucky counties where clerks have stopped issuing marriage licenses in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has repeatedly told county clerks to issue marriage licenses to couples who qualify, no matter their sexual orientation.

Last month, Republican state Reps. Stan Lee and David Meade pre-filed a bill that would exempt clerks from liability if they refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

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