Kentucky clerk won't accept gay marriage deal, goes to jail

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Kentucky Clerk in Custody Over Gay Marriage Licenses

ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) -- A defiant county clerk refused a judge's compromise offer on gay marriage that could have kept her out of jail on Thursday, saying she can't promise not to interfere as her deputy clerks follow the law.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning said he had no choice but to jail Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for contempt after she insisted that her "conscience will not allow" her to follow federal court rulings on gay marriage.

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The fight for marriage equality in Kentucky, County Clerk Kim Davis
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Kentucky clerk won't accept gay marriage deal, goes to jail
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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"God's moral law conflicts with my job duties," Davis told the judge before a federal marshal escorted her out. "You can't be separated from something that's in your heart and in your soul."

The judge later sought a resolution to keep Davis out of jail after all. He overruled an objection from her lawyer, who argued that her six deputy clerks cannot act against her authority. And he called each one before him to declare whether they intend to follow the law. All but the clerk's son, Nathan Davis, promised to comply.

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

With that, the hearing ended, and the saga was sure to continue Friday, as gay and lesbian couples vowed to return to the Rowan County clerk's office yet again in hopes that the deputy clerks would keep their promises.

Watch more coverage below:

KY County Clerk Held in Contempt of Court

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."

Outside, hundreds of people chanted and screamed, "Love won! Love won!" as word of Davis' jailing reached the dueling crowds.

Davis is being represented by the Liberty Counsel, an organization that advocates in court for religious freedoms. Before she was led away, Davis explained that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June that legalized 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," Davis said.

April Miller, who was denied a marriage license four times by Davis or her deputies, testified that she voted for Kim Davis and has no desire to change the clerk's personal beliefs, 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."

The judge later produced promises of compliance from five of the clerks.

"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, an Apostolic Christian whose critics mock her for being on her fourth marriage, stopped issuing licenses to all couples after the Supreme Court ruling, and the courts consistently ruled against her since then. But many supporters have rallied around her, including Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal.

"People are calling the office all the time asking to send money," she testified. "I myself have not solicited any money."

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.

"The legislative and executive branches do have the ability to make changes," Bunning said. "It's not this court's job to make changes. I don't write law."

Davis served as her mother's deputy in the clerk's office for 27 years before she was elected as a Democrat to succeed her mother in November. As an elected official, she can be removed only if the Legislature impeaches her, which is unlikely in a deeply conservative state.

Former Republican President George W. Bush nominated David Bunning for a lifetime position as a federal judge in 2001 when he was just 35 years old, halfway through his father's first term in the Senate. But Bunning has been anything but a sure thing for conservative causes, ruling against a partial-birth abortion ban and in favor of a Gay-Straight high school club.

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