Invoking "God's authority," a Kentucky clerk on Tuesday defied a Supreme Court ruling for her to heed an earlier order by a lower court requiring her to resume issuing marriage licenses, whether the applying couples are gays or not.
A day after the Supreme Court handed down its decision, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis continued her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Emerging from her office on Tuesday morning, Davis told the waiting couples and the activists gathered at her office that she would not budge on her decision to deny the licenses "under God's authority."
Davis had earlier defied an order by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and a federal appeals court for her to end her arbitrary action. Davis was also in defiance of an earlier Supreme Court ruling last in June that gave all gay couples in America the right to get legally married.
However, Davis argued that issuing marriage certificates to gay couples would violate her religious beliefs which, she contended, are protected by the First Amendment in the US Constitution, which prohibits impeding the free exercise of religion among others.
"The application for stay presented to Justice [Elena] Kagan and by her referred to the Court is denied," the Supreme Court said in a one-sentence decision.
Davis went to the Supreme Court to appeal her case after the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals denied on Aug. 26 her motion for a stay of a preliminary injunction issued by US District Judge David Bunning last Aug. 12.
Bunning issued a stay on his Aug.12 order to give Davis time on her appeal but it expired on Aug. 31.
Four couples who failed to get marriage licenses from Davis sued her.
In her appeal to the Supreme Court, filed by Liberty Counsel, Davis is described by her counsel as "a professing Apostolic Christian who attends church worship service multiple times per week, attends weekly Bible study, and leads a weekly Bible study with women at a local jail. As a Christian, Davis possesses a sincerely held religious belief that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, only."
Davis can face contempt charges if she refuses to comply with Bunning's order. A complaint of official misconduct against Davis has already been filed with the Kentucky Attorney General's office.
When Davis suspended the issuance of all marriage licenses in Rowan County, she also instructed all deputy clerks to stop doing so as each license is issued under her authority and name as the authorising person.
"Providing religious conviction accommodations is not antithetical for public employees," said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. "Throughout our history the courts have accommodated people's deeply held religious beliefs."
"The Supreme Court's marriage opinion does not suggest that religious accommodations cannot be made or that people have a fundamental right to receive a marriage license from a particular clerk," he added.
In his ruling, Bunning said, "Her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County clerk."