September 3, 2015 / 3:25 AM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 3-Kentucky clerk seeks same-sex marriage license reprieve

(Adds remarks from U.S. Attorney for Eastern Kentucky, details, paragraphs 3-6)

By Steve Bittenbender

MOREHEAD, Ky., Sept 2 (Reuters) - A county clerk in Kentucky sought an emergency injunction on Wednesday to temporarily block a federal court order requiring her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a day before she goes to court to face contempt charges.

Kim Davis, the elected Rowan County clerk, says her religious beliefs as an Apostolic Christian stop her from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that made gay marriage legal nationwide.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week and the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied Davis’ requests to temporarily block the order requiring the county to issue marriage licenses.

Her refusal to issue licenses drew a rare response on Wednesday from the top federal prosecutor for the area, who is not a party to the case.

“We have grave concerns about the reported failure to comply with the court’s order,” U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey said in a statement. “Government officials are free to disagree with the law, but not disobey it.”

Attorneys for Davis said in their filing on Wednesday that an injunction would “halt the irreversible implications on Davis’ conscience” while the appeals court reviews her claims and less burdensome alternatives.

Despite claims by Davis’s legal counsel that an executive order allowing her not to sign the licenses would address the issue, a spokesman for Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear affirmed on Wednesday that Beshear has no authority over Davis’ office.

Davis, who has refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples, gay or straight, is represented by Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based Christian religious advocacy organization.

Four couples filed a federal lawsuit in July challenging her policy of not issuing licenses. The couples filed a motion on Tuesday asking U.S. District Judge David Bunning to hold her in contempt of court, seeking fines but no jail time.

Liberty is providing legal services at no cost to Davis, but have not discussed payment on any potential fines, the group’s founder and Chairman Mathew Staver told Reuters in an email.

“However, we do know that there is a lot of support for Kim Davis in the event that she is fined. And we believe that there would be sufficient number of people that would help cover some or all of it,” Staver said.

Davis is due to appear before Bunning in Ashland, Kentucky, on Thursday. (Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in WASHINGTON; Writing by Daniel Bases; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Paul Tait)

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