Clerk Must Issue Gay-Marriage Licenses After High Court Rebuff

A Kentucky county clerk must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected contentions that she is being forced to violate her religious convictions.

The justices, without explanation, refused to lift a lower court order requiring Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to resume distributing marriage licenses. She stopped issuing any licenses -- and defied an order from the state’s governor -- after the Supreme Court ruled in June that gay marriage is a constitutional right.

The emergency appeal marked an early test of how the Supreme Court will handle religious objections to gay marriage in the aftermath of the landmark June 26 ruling.

Davis, an elected official in the northeastern Kentucky county, has become a flashpoint in that debate. She now could face contempt charges if she doesn’t comply with U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning’s order. In addition, the state attorney general’s office has received a request that Davis be prosecuted.

Davis, who describes herself as a devout Christian, says it would violate her conscience to approve a marriage license to a same-sex couple. She has also barred her deputies from issuing licenses because the documents would bear her name.

Davis argued that same-sex couples could travel to other counties to get licenses. The Supreme Court’s cases “do not create a fundamental right to receive a marriage license from a particular person,” she argued in papers filed at the high court.

In rejecting those arguments, Bunning said Davis isn’t being asked to condone same-sex marriage.

“Her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County clerk,” the judge wrote.