August 13, 2015 / 2:26 PM / 4 years ago

Kentucky county clerk defies judge over gay marriage

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) - A Kentucky county clerk’s office on Thursday defied a federal judge’s order by continuing to block marriage licenses for same-sex couples, saying the legal case was still pending.

A young boy waves a rainbow flag while watching the San Francisco gay pride parade two days after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country in San Francisco, California June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

The Rowan County clerk’s office turned away at least three same-sex couples who tried to get marriage licenses, according to local media and court documents.

Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk, who stopped issuing all marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling legalizing gay marriage, is on vacation. Nathan Davis, a relative who also works at the clerk’s office, told Reuters the office was not currently taking licenses because of the active litigation. He declined to comment further.

In a court filing, plaintiff April Miller said she and Karen Roberts tried on Thursday to obtain a marriage license shortly before 12 p.m. ET and were rebuffed.

“Upon asking a deputy clerk for a marriage license application, Ms. Roberts and I were informed that the Rowan County Clerk’s office will not issue any marriage licenses,” Miller said in the filing.

An attorney for David Moore and David Ermold said the two men tried but failed to get a marriage license on Thursday, while the Louisville Courier-Journal said James Yates and Will Smith also were unsuccessful. Yates and Smith could not be reached for comment.

Kentucky is not alone in facing unresolved issues related to gay marriage since the Supreme Court’s ruling.

On Thursday, the Colorado Court of Appeals said a suburban Denver baker could not cite his religious beliefs in refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In Florida, a lawsuit challenged the state’s refusal to issue same-sex couples accurate birth certificates listing both spouses as parents of their children.

On Wednesday, gay rights advocates in Mississippi filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples. In South Carolina, a woman asked the state’s Supreme Court to rule the state domestic violence law unconstitutional because it only addresses heterosexual couples and cannot protect her from an abusive, and female, ex-fiancee.

Shortly after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear ordered the state’s 120 county clerks to begin processing same-sex marriage licenses. A few, including Davis, decided to disregard it because of what they said was their Christian belief that marriage can be only between a man and a woman.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning issued a preliminary injunction ordering Davis’ office to process license applications from all couples, saying she had to live up to her responsibilities as county clerk.

“Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs,” he wrote in his decision. “She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do. However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk.”

Davis filed an appeal shortly after Wednesday’s order and on Thursday sought to stay the injunction until an appellate court could render its decision.

Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, which provides pro bono representation related to issues of “religious freedom, the sanctity of life and the family” and is representing Davis’ office, said it was premature to discuss what would happen if the stay was denied. Roger Gannam, also with Liberty Counsel, said on Wednesday: “She is resolute in protecting her rights.”

Bunning set a deadline of Friday afternoon for the plaintiffs to respond to Davis’ stay request, and a Monday afternoon deadline for Davis to file a response.

Additional reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Susan Heavey, Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler

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