One of a handful of Kentucky county clerks refusing to issue marriage licenses to couples, either straight or gay, testified in court on Monday that her decision was “thought out” and that she “sought God on it,” according to USA Today.
“It wasn’t just a spur of the moment decision,” said Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis. She has been sued by the ACLU on behalf of four couples — two gay and two straight — after her refusal to issue any type of marriage license in the county where they live, work and pay taxes. Following the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality, Davis says she fasted and prayed and came to the decision not to issue any marriage license so that she would not be guilty of discriminating only against same-sex couples.
Davis testified on the stand on Monday that she believes she is upholding her oath under the Constitution, and that the First Amendment should protect her from having to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of her personal religious beliefs. But Davis, who describes herself as an Apostolic Christian, has gone a step further, arguing that even allowing licenses to be issued in her name violates her religious beliefs, even if she personally does not grant the licenses and has a deputy do it instead.
“If I say they are authorized, I’m saying, ‘I agree with it.’ And I can’t,” Davis said. She also refused to resign from her post, saying that it wouldn’t solve anything because it would just shift the burden of grappling with the issue of same-sex marriage from her to her deputies.
Following the hearing, representatives of the ACLU of Kentucky pounced on details revealed in Davis’ testimony.
“Today’s hearing confirmed what we already knew: Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is refusing to issue marriage licenses because of her personal religious beliefs,” said William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky. “We are hopeful Judge Bunning will agree that while Ms. Davis has a right to religious freedom, that freedom does not authorize her to withhold essential government services because of those beliefs.”
Meanwhile, lawyers from the Liberty Council, a conservative organization representing Davis, have argued in court that any of the four couples could have obtained licenses in other counties, and that Davis’ religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, even when she is acting in her official capacity as a representative of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
According to USA Today, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning said he expects to release a decision sometime around Aug. 11. Bunning had previously heard arguments from the plaintiffs’ lawyers last week, but Davis did not appear in court at that time and had not signed paperwork acknowledging that she was being sued, forcing Bunning to continue the hearing to this week. Bunning is the son of former U.S. Congressman and U.S. Senator Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), a fierce opponent of same-sex marriage.
A spokeswoman for the ACLU of Kentucky said that clerks in two other counties — Casey and Whitley — are also refusing to issue marriage licenses to any couples, but that the ACLU has not found a plaintiff in either of those two counties yet. In either case, a decision regarding whether Davis must issue marriage licenses, or at least allow her deputies to do so, would likely influence any future litigation related to those clerks’ refusals.
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