An elected official in Kentucky decided not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after she prayed and fasted. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis attended court on Monday after the American Civil Liberties Union sued her over her refusal to issue licenses, despite the recent Supreme Court decision that made gay marriage legal across all 50 states.
Davis told the court she could not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because signing the document would signal her approval of a union that violates her religious beliefs. She said she came to this decision after not eating and talking to God. Governor of Kentucky Steve Beshear instructed county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately following last month's Supreme Court ruling.
The ACLU has asked District Judge David Bunning to order Davis to issue the marriage licenses. Bunning, who did not rule after the Monday hearing, could order Davis to issue licenses, and then fine her or put her in jail if she refuses. But he can not remove her from office as she’s an elected official.
Davis said Monday she is a member of a local apostolic church, part of the Christian faith. She said she believes the Bible is "God's holy word" and that it defines marriage as strictly between one man and one woman.
Kentucky law requires the county clerk to issue marriage licenses, or the local judge executive if the clerk is absent or the office is vacant. The licenses are valid for 39 days until someone — a minister or other qualified official — performs the ceremony and signs the form. The couple then returns the license to the clerk and has it recorded.
The wording on the license says the couple is "hereby authorised" to get married. "If... I authorise that I'm saying I agree with it, and I can't," Davis said Monday in a sometimes-tearful testimony before a packed courtroom. She added: "If I resign, it solves nothing and helps nobody," especially when "there is a solution out there where everyone can be happy and no one is compromised in any way."
Her solution is for Beshear to call a special session of the state legislature to pass a law protecting county clerks, possibly by allowing people to receive marriage licenses from the state online. Beshear has declined to call the legislature back to Frankfort, citing the $60,000 per day cost to taxpayers.
Bunning said the earliest he could rule would be mid-August. But it's unclear how Davis — who has already ignored broader orders from the US Supreme Court and the governor — would react to a judge's order to issue marriage licenses. "I'll deal with that when the time comes," she said.