Federal judge orders Kentucky clerk and her staff to court

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Kentucky Clerk Denies Marriage Licenses

MOREHEAD, Ky. (AP) -- A county clerk in Kentucky who has invoked "God's authority" and is defying the U.S. Supreme Court by refusing to license same-sex marriage has been summoned along with her entire staff to explain to a federal judge why she should not face stiff fines or jail time.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning moved swiftly Tuesday after a lesbian couple asked him to find Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in contempt. Davis told several couples and a crowd of supporters and protesters that her religious beliefs prevent her from sanctioning gay marriage, and then retreated again, closing her office door and blinds to the raucous scene outside.

READ MORE: Standoff over gay marriage licenses wears on, despite ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene Monday night, leaving Davis no legal ground for her continued refusal Tuesday morning. Lawyers for the two gay couples who originally sued her asked the judge Tuesday to find her in contempt, but punish her with only financial penalties, not jail time.

"Since Defendant Davis continues to collect compensation from the Commonwealth for duties she fails to perform," they asked Bunning to "impose financial penalties sufficiently serious and increasingly onerous" to compel her immediate compliance without delay.

Rowan County Attorney Cecil Watkins says the federal court alerted him that a hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday in Ashland.

As an elected official, Davis can't be fired; her impeachment would have to wait until the Legislature's regular session next year or a costly special session.

Davis rejected David Moore and David Ermold's license request for a fourth time, and then told them to leave.

"We're not leaving until we have a license," Ermold said as reporters and cameras surrounded them.

"Then you're going to have a long day," Davis told him, and then retreated into her inner office.

From the back of the room, Davis' supporters said: "Praise the Lord! ... Stand your ground."

Photos from Kim Davis' office and reaction from gay marriage supporters:

43 PHOTOS
The fight for marriage equality in Kentucky, County Clerk Kim Davis
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Federal judge orders Kentucky clerk and her staff to court
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: Michael Long (left) and Timothy Long, of Rowan County, raise their hands in front of a crowd of supporters after receiving their legal marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: A deputy clerk of the Clerk of Courts office fills out a marriage license for Timothy and Michael Long in the Rowan County Courthouse on Friday, September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Michael and Timothy live in Rowan County Kentucky. Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 14: Shannon (left) and Carmen Wampler-Collins walk out of the Rowan County Courthouse after receiving a legal marriage license from one of the Deputy Clerk of Courts September 14, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Rowan County clerk Kim Davis was jailed for disobeying a judge's order for denying marriage licenses to gay couples on the basis of her religious faith. Today was Davis' first day back to work, after being released from jail last week. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 4: Jesse Cruz receives a hug from a same sex marriage supporter after he and his partner, Robbie Blankenship, received their legal marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse on September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Blankenship and Cruz, of Columbus, Ohio, went to the Clerk of Courts office this past Wednesday and were denied a marriage license by the Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis.Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: Michael Long and Timothy Long, of Rowan County, kiss in front of a crowd of supporters after receiving their legal marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
Assistant Rowan County Clerk Brian Mason, left, hands James Yates, and his partner William Smith Jr., their marriage license at the Rowan County Judicial Center in Morehead, Ky., Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. After four attempts, Yates and Smith were finally issued their marriage license. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
James Yates, left, hugs his partner William Smith Jr., after receiving their marriage license at the Rowan County Judicial Center in Morehead, Ky., Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. Deputy clerk Brian Mason issued the license, congratulating the couple and shaking their hands as he smiled. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
This Thursday, Aug. 3, 2015 photo made available by the Carter County Detention Center shows Kim Davis. The Rowan County, Ky. clerk went to jail Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, but five of her deputies agreed to comply with the law, ending a two-month standoff. (Carter County Detention Center via AP)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 2: Robbie Blankenship (L) stands next to his partner of 20 years, Jesse Cruz, of Corpus Christie, Texas, as they speak with Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Citing a sincere religious objection, Davis, an Apostolic Christian, has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 2: Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz as they speak with her at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Citing a sincere religious objection, Davis, an Apostolic Christian, has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 2: Robbie Blankenship (L) and his partner of 20 years, Jesse Cruz, of Corpus Christie, Texas, leave the Rowan County Clerks Office after being denied a marriage license on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Citing a sincere religious objection, Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, who is an Apostolic Christian, has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, talks with David Moore following her office's refusal to issue marriage licenses at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Although her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied, Davis still refuses to issue marriage licenses. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
ASHLAND, KY - SEPTEMBER 3: Same-sex marriage supports demonstrate on the steps of the federal courthouse during Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis's hearing on September 3, 2015 in Ashland, Kentucky. Davis was held in contempt of court today after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: A same sex marriage supporter wears badges on the back of her back pack during a protest in front of the Rowan County Courthouse September 4, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian and a Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, citing religious objections. Davis was held in contempt of court and placed in Carter County jail on Thursday, September 3rd. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
Jonathan Beebe-Franqui, left, and his husband Dwayne D. Beebe-Franqui embrace as they wait for the arrival of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis at the Carl D. Perkins Federal Building in Ashland, Ky., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Davis has been ordered to appear in Federal Court to explain why she is refusing to issue marriage licenses despite a federal order to do so. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, foreground left, is greeted as she arrives for work at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Davis' appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was turned down on Monday, and now she is under federal orders to begin issuing marriage licenses. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis listens to a customer following her office's refusal to issue marriage licenses at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Although her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied, Davis still refuses to issue marriage licenses. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
David Miller, right, talks with Rowan County Sheriffs Deputy Joe Cline about the possibility of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis being arrested for contempt at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Although her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied, Davis still refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
A sign and sign-in sheet is placed at the door of the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. Although normally open on the last Saturday of the month, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis decided not to open the office due to a rally being held on the lawn. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Karen Roberts, left, and her partner, April Miller, speak to Assistant Rowan County Clerk Kim Russell as they attempt to get a marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has refused to issue marriage licenses in defiance of a federal order. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
William Smith Jr., right, and his partner James Yates, second right, speak with an unnamed clerk in an attempt to obtain a marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. The couple were denied despite the ruling of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding an earlier decision instructing the clerks to issue marriage licenses. This was the couple's third attempt. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis speaks to a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort Ky., Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. Davis spoke at the rally organized by The Family Foundation of Kentucky on Saturday afternoon. The crowd of a few thousand included churchgoers from around the state. Davis has been sued by The American Civil Liberties Union for denying marriage licenses to gay couples. She says her Christian faith prohibits her from signing licenses for same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
A protester attempts to lead the crowd in a cheer during a protest on the lawn of the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. Approximately a hundred people gathered to protest Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis failing to issue marriage licenses. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Penny Stennitt, of Mt. Sterling Ky., cheers in support during a Religious Freedoms Rally at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort Ky., Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. Three Kentucky county clerks who are refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples drew thunderous cheers from the crowd gathered at the state capitol. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
April Miller, right, and her partner Karen Roberts embrace after reading the decision of the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals refusing to hear Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis' appeal ordering her to issue marriage licenses because of her religious beliefs in Morehead, Ky., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis smilesas she helps a customer at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. Davis is back at work and still not issuing marriage licenses while her case is under appeal. U.S. District Judge David Bunning denied Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis' request to delay his ruling from last week ordering her to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. That ruling followed the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. But Bunning then delayed his own decision, effectively granting Davis' request while also denying it. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
David Ermold, right, attempts to hand Rowan County clerks Nathan Davis, left, and Roberta Earley, second from left, a copy of the ruling from U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning, instructing the county to start issuing marriage licenses, in Morehead, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has refused the order and has filed an appeal. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
James Yates, left, and William Smith Jr. speak with Rowan County Judge Executive Walter Blevins, right, in an attempt to obtain a marriage license in Morehead, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. In a decision Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to issue marriage licenses, but she has refused after filing an appeal the ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Karen Roberts, center, and her partner April Miller speak with Rowan County Clerk Kim Russell in an attempt to obtain a marriage license at the Rowan County courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Miller and Roberts, two of the original plaintiffs in the federal suit against Rowan County, Ky., and Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis were at the courthouse to obtain a marriage license. The clerk's office rejected the couples' bid for licenses just hours after U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning ordered Davis to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
As his partner, David Ermold, right, looks on, David Moore calls Rowan County Judge Executive Walter Blevins in an attempt to obtain a marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. In a decision on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to issue marriage licenses, but she has refused after filing an appeal the ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
James Yates, left, and William Smith Jr. wait in line at the Rowan County Clerks Office to obtain a marriage license in Morehead, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. In a decision on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to issue marriage licenses to all couples, but she has refused after filing an appeal to the ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
David Ermold, right, is hugged by Taral Thompson following the refusal of the Rowan County clerk's office to issue a marriage license to he and his partner, in defiance of a federal judge's decision in Morehead, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has already filed a notice of appeal and plans to request a stay on the ruling. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
April Miller, right, looks on as her partner Karen Roberts as she addresses the media outside the Rowan County courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Miller and Roberts, two of the original plaintiffs in the federal suit against Rowan County, Ky., and Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis were at the courthouse to apply for their marriage license following U.S. District Judge David Bunning's decision Wednesday ordering Davis to begin issuing marriage licenses. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County clerk Nathan Davis, right, informs David Moore that the clerk's office will not be issuing any marriage licenses, in defiance of an order from a federal judge in Morehead, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has already filed a notice of appeal and plans to request a stay on the ruling. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, walks with her attorney Roger Gannam into the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington, Ky., Monday, July 20, 2015. Davis, who has said she cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because it would violate her religious beliefs, is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on the behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Casey County Clerk Casey Davis, right, speaks with a supporter in front of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington, Ky., Monday, July 20, 2015. Davis is one of the clerks in Kentucky that has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of an order from the governor. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Casey County Clerk Casey Davis speaks with reporters on the steps of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington, Ky., Monday, July 20, 2015. Davis is one of the clerks in Kentucky that has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of an order from the governor. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Supporters of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis line the wall in front of the United States Federal Courthouse in Covington, Ky., Monday, July 20, 2015. Davis, who has said she cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because it would violate her religious beliefs, is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, listens as her attorney Roger Gannam addresses the media on the steps of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington, Ky., Monday, July 20, 2015. Davis, who has said she cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because it would violate her religious beliefs, is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on the behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Quincy Swain, left, and Dallas Black protest Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis outside the United States Federal Courthouse in Covington, Ky., Monday, July 20, 2015. Davis, who has said she cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because it would violate her religious beliefs, is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on the behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Attorney Roger Gannam, center, lead counsel for Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, talks to the media Monday July 13, 2015, at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Ashland, Ky. The U.S. Supreme Court decided June 26 states cannot prohibit issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but Davis has refused citing religious beliefs. (AP Photo/John Flavell)
Tom Lowe, left, and James Perkins, with sign, show their support for Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis Monday, July 13, 2015, at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Ashland, Ky. A federal judge is hearing arguments Monday about Davis, one of a hand full of local officials across the country who are refusing to issue any marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court decided June 26 states cannot prohibit issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but Davis has refused citing her religious beliefs. (AP Photo/John Flavell)
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Other activists shouted that Davis is a bigot and told her: "Do your job."

The sheriff then moved everyone out to the courthouse lawn, where James Yates and Will Smith Jr., who were denied a license for a fifth time, left red-eyed and shaking.

"It's just too hard right now," Yates said, choking back tears and holding hands as they rushed to their car.

Davis was elected last November as a Democrat, succeeding her mother in the office she had held for 37 years, according to the Morehead News. Her staff includes her son.

Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the nation in June. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued, arguing that she must fulfill her duties as an elected official despite her personal religious faith. A federal judge ordered her to issue the licenses, and an appeals court upheld that decision.

Her lawyers with the Liberty Counsel filed a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court on Friday, asking that they grant her "asylum for her conscience."

Watch more coverage below:

Same-Sex Couple Denied Marriage License

Justice Elena Kagan, who oversees the 6th district, referred Davis' request to the full court, which denied the stay without comment.

Amid Tuesday's developments, two groups lined up on either side of the courthouse entrance to chant at each other.

"At the end of the day, we have to stand before God, which has higher authority than the Supreme Court," said Randy Smith, leading the group supporting Davis.

Ermold and Moore, together for 17 years, cried and swayed as walked out to chants from the clerk's supporters.

"I feel sad, I feel devastated," Ermold said. "I feel like I've been humiliated on such a national level, I can't even comprehend it."


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The clerk's husband, Joe Davis, came by to check on his wife. He said she has received death threats but remains committed to her faith and is "standing for God." As for himself, he said he believes in the Second Amendment: "I'm an old redneck hillbilly, that's all I've got to say. Don't come knocking on my door."

He pointed to the gay rights protesters gathered on the courthouse lawn and said: "They want us to accept their beliefs and their ways. But they won't accept our beliefs and our ways."

Related - 2016 candidates' reactions to SCOTUS' gay marriage ruling:

19 PHOTOS
2016 candidates on gay marriage ruling
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Federal judge orders Kentucky clerk and her staff to court
My thoughts on today's Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage: http://t.co/fd4nzBmUBl
This flawed, failed decision is an out-of-control act of unconstitutional judicial tyranny --> http://t.co/WMborH3TxB #SCOTUS
The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature's God on marriage than it can the laws of gravity.
Proud to celebrate a historic victory for marriage equality—& the courage & determination of LGBT Americans who made it possible. -H
I’m a firm believer in traditional marriage, and I also believe the 10th Amendment leaves it to each state to decide this issue. #SCOTUS
Congratulations to Supreme Court on today's good ruling for marriage equality! #chafee2016
What a day for our country—join me in celebrating today’s decision & thanking the advocates who helped make it happen http://t.co/4JaNmOIgTA
I believe SCOTUS' decision is a grave mistake. 5 unelected judges have taken it upon themselves to redefine the institution of marriage.-SKW
Today the Supreme Court fulfilled the words engraved upon its building: ‘Equal justice under law.’ #SCOTUSMarriage
My statement on today’s #SCOTUS ruling http://t.co/UalM0QnBuF
Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that. http://t.co/1Kfw9l0KMG
Today, 5 unelected judges redefined the foundational unit of society. Now it is the people's turn to speak #Marriage
Once again the Bush appointed Supreme Court Justice John Roberts has let us down. Jeb pushed him hard! Remember!
We must not submit our constitutional freedoms, and the promise of our nation, to judicial tyranny http://t.co/ZInyN6JfLR #SCOTUS
A large number of Americans will continue to believe in traditional marriage....
...and a large number of Americans will be pleased with the Court’s decision today.
My statement on today's Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage: http://t.co/0udkTLDBE9
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