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Clerk jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licences

“God’s moral law conflicts with my job duties,” Kim Davis told the judge.

Image: Timothy D. Easley/AP/PA

A DEFIANT COUNTY clerk went to jail today for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, but five of her deputies agreed to comply with the law, ending a two-month church-state stand-off in Rowan County, Kentucky.

US District Judge David Bunning said he had no choice but to jail Kim Davis for contempt after she insisted that her “conscience will not allow” her to follow federal court rulings on gay marriage.

“God’s moral law conflicts with my job duties,” Davis told the judge. “You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul.”

The judge later tried to keep Davis out of jail after all. He rejected her lawyer’s argument that deputy clerks cannot act against her authority, and called each one before him to declare their intentions. Faced with potential fines or jail, all but the clerk’s son, Nathan Davis, promised to comply.

Love won

The judge said Nathan Davis’ refusal wouldn’t matter and that his mother could go free as long as she promises not to interfere with issuing of marriage licenses to all couples. But Kim Davis rejected the offer, her lawyers later said.

With that, the hearing ended, and gay and lesbian couples vowed to appear at the Rowan County clerk’s office yet again tomorrow, to see if the deputy clerks keep their promises.

As word of Davis’ jailing reached the crowds outside the federal courthouse, hundreds of people chanted and screamed, “Love won! Love won!”

Source: Timothy D. Easley/AP/PA

Bunning said it would set up a “slippery slope” to allow an individual’s ideas to supersede the courts’ authority.

“Her good faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” Bunning said. “I myself have genuinely held religious beliefs … but I took an oath.”

“Mrs Davis took an oath,” he added. “Oaths mean things.”

“I wanted to make heaven my home”

Davis is being represented by the Liberty Counsel, an organisation that advocates in court for religious freedoms. Before she was led away, Davis explained that the US Supreme Court’s ruling in June that legalised gay marriage nationwide conflicts with the vows she made when she became a born-again Christian.

I promised to love Him with all my heart, mind and soul because I wanted to make heaven my home.

Gay Marriage-Kentucky Limbo April Miller and her partner Karen Roberts who were refused a marriage licence. Source: Timothy D. Easley

April Miller, denied a marriage license four times by Davis or her deputies, testified that she voted for Kim Davis, but wants to be treated equally in the community where she lives. One of the deputy clerks told her to apply in a different county, she said, but “that’s kind of like saying we don’t want gays or lesbians here. We don’t think you are valuable.”

“I don’t hate anybody”

Faced with the possibility of fines, jail time or the loss of their jobs, five of the clerks promised to issue the licenses.

“I don’t really want to, but I will comply with the law,” said one, Melissa Thompson. “I’m a preacher’s daughter and this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life,” she added. “I don’t hate anybody … None of us do.”

Davis said she hopes the Legislature will change Kentucky laws to find some way for her to keep her job while following her conscience. But unless the governor convenes a costly special session, they won’t meet until January. “Hopefully our legislature will get something taken care of,” she told the judge.

Until then, the judge said, he has no alternative but to keep her behind bars.

Read: An Australian gay couple in their 80s wants the right to get married before they die>

READ: Letters sent to the Taoiseach about same-sex marriage>

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Associated Press

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