Ky. clerk found in contempt, jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses

Chris Kenning

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A Kentucky county clerk was found in contempt of court Thursday for her refusal to issue marriage licenses in wake of the Supreme Court decision to allow gays to wed.

U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning placed Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in the custody of U.S. marshals until she complies.

Before the hearing, more than 100 protesters gathered outside the courthouse to bolster both sides of the debate.

Demonstrators lined the street, waving signs either with religious messages or calls for marriage equality. One man stood in the crowd, shouting over a microphone.

"If we want to live like Sodom and Gomorrah, God will punish us like Sodom and Gomorrah," he said, where in Genesis 19: 23-26 God rained burning sulfur on the land of the two cities destroying all who lived there.

The Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, whose lawyers are representing Davis, said in a court filing Wednesday that she should not be found in contempt because lesser measures could achieve the same goal. Those include authorizing the state to issue marriage licenses or allowing someone other than a county's clerk to sign them.

But Bunning, who had previously ordered her and her clerks to process the paperwork and issue certificates, said fines for Davis, who makes $80,000 a year, would not be enough to ensure her to follow his orders.

Ashley Hogue, a secretary from Ashland held a sign outside the courthouse that read, "Kim Davis does not speak for my religious beliefs."

"This is so ugly," she said, wiping away tears. "I was unprepared for all the hate."

Demonstrator Charles Ramey, a retired steelworker, downplayed the vitrol.

"We don't hate these people," he said. "We wouldn't tell them how to get saved if we hated them."

Davis, who calls herself an Apostolic Christian, has said she cannot issue licenses to same-sex couples because it conflicts with her religious beliefs.

"I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will," she said in a previous statement through her lawyers. "To me, this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God's word."

She has resisted suggestions that her deputies could issue the licenses because her name appears on the certificates. But the crux of the contempt case against her involves Kentucky law, which, unlike some states' laws, requires county clerks to issue marriage licenses.

When four couples — two gay and two straight — filed suit against her for shuttering marriage-license operations for all couples, she argued that they could be served in other Kentucky counties. When Bunning, son of GOP Sen. Jim Bunning who retired from the U.S. Senate in 2011, told her she or her deputies must issue the licenses, he stayed his order until this past Monday as she filed an appeal with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

When that stay expired, appeals court judges declined to renew it. And when she asked the Supreme Court to weigh in Monday, justices in Washington refused.

A transgender man and his wife* stepped forward with paperwork showing that Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis apparently issued them a marriage license in February even though she has blocked forms for same-sex couples over the past two months.

Camryn Colen, who is transgender, and his wife Alexis, who identifies as pan sexual, said Davis’ office provided the license on Feb. 26 without asking to see Camryn’s birth certificate, which still identifies him as female. The couple married that night.

“She saw just a straight couple in love, and she should see everybody like that,” Camryn said. “She shouldn’t just see straight couples like that.”

The couple allowed inspection of the license and Camryn’s birth certificate on Saturday (Aug.  29). Their story was first reported by the Daily Independent in Ashland and TheTrail Blazer, the student newspaper at Morehead State University.

The Colen’s said they have wanted to step forward since Davis began refusing licenses for all couples in June, but were concerned about the safety of their 6-month old daughter.

Camryn, 30, and Alexis, 21, said they have been together for two years, and moved to Morehead about a year ago. Camryn said they have tried to remain under the radar, but decided that fighting for equality for their daughter’s sake was more important.

Contributing: The Associated Press

*This story has been updated from an earlier version to include information about Camryn and Alexis Colen.

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