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Update: Rowan County Clerk Says Refusal To Issue Marriage Licenses a 'Matter of Religious Liberty'

Ryland Barton

Update 9:10 p.m.: Beshear's Statement
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Steve Beshear said "117 of our 120 county clerks are following the law and carrying out their duty to issue marriage licenses regardless of gender."

Here's his full statement:
“There are obviously strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but the United States Supreme Court has spoken and same-sex marriage is now legal in Kentucky and the rest of the United States. Regardless of whatever their personal feelings might be, 117 of our 120 county clerks are following the law and carrying out their duty to issue marriage licenses regardless of gender. Same-sex couples are now being married in Kentucky and such marriages from other states are now being recognized under Kentucky law. The future of the Rowan County Clerk is now in the hands of the courts. The legislature has placed the authority to issue marriage licenses squarely on county clerks by statute, and I have no legal authority to relieve her of her statutory duty by executive order or to remove her from office. The General Assembly will convene in four months and can make any statutory changes it deems necessary at that time. I see no need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money calling a special session of the General Assembly when 117 of 120 county clerks are doing their jobs.”
Update 2:36 p.m.: Bevin Weighs In
The events in Rowan County happen amid a close gubernatorial election in Kentucky, and County Clerk Kim Davis' refusal to issue marriage licenses is among the issues that have entered the campaign.

On Tuesday, Republican nominee Matt Bevin issue a statement criticizing his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway, for declining to defend the state's same-sex marriage law last year in a case that would eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bevin said Conway is "failing to defend the religious freedom of our Kentucky clerks."

"I once again call on Gov. Beshear and AG Conway to do their jobs and defend the Constitutional rights of all Kentuckians, including our county clerks. Playing political games with the lives of elected officials is unacceptable."

The Courier-Journal notes that the plaintiffs asked the Rowan County attorney to prosecute Davis, and the request was referred to Conway in his capacity as attorney general. The newspaper adds:
Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for Conway, said the office can appoint either a county or commonwealth’s attorney from another jurisdiction as special prosecutor or an assistant attorney general. Special prosecutors are appointed if the allegations constitute a crime and the prosecutor in the requesting county has a legitimate conflict of interest.
Conway's campaign did not immediately return a request for comment. Update: Conway's campaign said in a statement:
"The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken on the issue of same-sex marriage, and Attorney General Conway believes it's time to move forward because the good-paying jobs are going to states with policies of inclusivity. As he's said before, Attorney General Conway is willing to look at a legislative solution in a regular session that upholds the Supreme Court decision and allows county clerks some flexibility so we can all move forward."
Beshear directed county clerks in June to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Neither of Kentucky's senators have weighed in yet:

Update 1 p.m.: Davis Says She's Made 'Heaven or Hell Decision'
In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis said her stance against issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite a judge's order is a "Heaven or Hell decision."

Davis, who was elected clerk in 2014, noted that she's worked in the clerk's office for 27 years.

"Some people have said I should resign, but I have done my job well," Davis said in the statement, issued through her attorneys.

She adds:
In addition to my desire to serve the people of Rowan County, I owe my life to Jesus Christ who loves me and gave His life for me. Following the death of my godly mother-in-law over four years ago, I went to church to fulfill her dying wish. There I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God. I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word. It is a matter of religious liberty, which is protected under the First Amendment, the Kentucky Constitution, and in the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Our history is filled with accommodations for people’s religious freedom and conscience. I want to continue to perform my duties, but I also am requesting what our Founders envisioned – that conscience and religious freedom would be protected. That is all I am asking. I never sought to be in this position, and I would much rather not have been placed in this position. I have received death threats from people who do not know me. I harbor nothing against them. I was elected by the people to serve as the County Clerk. I intend to continue to serve the people of Rowan County, but I cannot violate my conscience.
Update 12:15 p.m.: Hearing on Thursday
U.S. District Judge David Bunning on Thursday will have a hearing on the contempt motion against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis filed Tuesday by couples who've been denied marriage licenses by her office.

Late Tuesday morning, protesters were still outside the Rowan County Courthouse. About 50 people were gathered on opposing sides — one side chanted "do your job" and "fire her." The other side chanted "stand firm."
Update 11:50 a.m.: Couples File With Court
The couples suing Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for her refusal to issue marriage licenses have asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to hold her in concept.

The motion was filed Tuesday morning after Davis again refused to issue marriage licenses, defying Bunning's order. The Supreme Court refused to issue a stay on the order on Monday.

The plaintiffs are asking the judge to levy fines against Davis, instead of ordering her to be incarcerated. The documents from the ACLU of Kentucky, which is representing the plaintiffs, can be read here.
Update 10:24 a.m.: The Latest
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis returned to her office Tuesday morning to chants of "do your job" from a crowd gathered inside the building. Here's what the scene looks like inside or outside the courthouse.

Earlier: Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis continues to deny marriage licenses to couples one day after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay a decision ordering her to do so.

Davis now risks being held in contempt of a federal court order.

Rowan County residents David Moore and David Ermold were again denied a marriage license at the Rowan County Clerk’s office Tuesday morning. Davis said "God’s authority" permits her to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She’s also refusing to issue licenses to heterosexual couples, to avoid being accused of discrimination, she has said.

“I’m willing to face my consequences as you all will face your consequences when it comes time for judgment," Davis said Tuesday.

Late Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Davis's appeal of a preliminary injunction to resumeissuing marriage licenses. Davis stopped issuing the forms after the high court legalized same-sex marriage in June. Davis could now be held in contempt of U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning's order to resume issuing marriage licenses.

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