Kentucky clerk gets help from GOP state Senate president

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In Contempt? Kentucky Clerk Now Refuses to Issue All Marriage Licenses

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- The Republican president of the Kentucky state Senate has asked a federal judge to withhold his ruling ordering a county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers says U.S. District Judge David Bunning needs to give the state legislature time to pass a law that would exempt Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from having to issue marriage licenses. The state legislature is not in session and won't be until January. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has refused to call for a special session, arguing it would waste taxpayer money for an issue that only affects one clerk.

"The Supreme Court ruling has completely obliterated the definition of marriage and the process for obtaining a marriage license in Kentucky," Stivers said in a news release. "The General Assembly will be compelled to amend many sections of Kentucky law, not just for the issuance of marriage licenses, to comply with the recent Supreme Court decision."

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The fight for marriage equality in Kentucky, County Clerk Kim Davis
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Kentucky clerk gets help from GOP state Senate president
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)
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)
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)
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Stivers says nearly all of Kentucky's laws governing marriage are invalid following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. For example, Kentucky's state law requires a couple seeking a marriage license to apply for one in the county "in which the female resides" or at another county so long as the woman applies for it.

"(The Supreme Court decision) clearly contemplates marriages that do not involve a female, as well as marriages that involve two females," Stivers' attorney wrote to the court. "It is unclear at this juncture what the proper venue for the issuance of a license for same sex marriages is after (the Supreme Court's decision.)

Davis objects to same-sex marriage for religious reasons. She stopped issuing marriage licenses after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her, and Bunning ordered her to issue the licenses.

But Davis has refused to obey that order even though it was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The four couples named in the lawsuit have asked Bunning to punish Davis by imposing fines against her. Bunning said he will decide after a court hearing, scheduled for Thursday. Davis will likely testify.

Wednesday, an attorney for Davis argued Bunning should not punish her for disobeying his order because she is unable to follow it. Jonathan Christman wrote that if Davis were to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple it would "irreparably and irreversibly violate her conscience." Christman said Davis cannot separate herself from her religious beliefs even while she is an elected official.

"It is not as if Kim Davis the individual stops existing while Kim Davis is performing her duties as Rowan County clerk," Christman wrote.

Christman argued Davis should not be punished yet because she still has an appeal pending before a higher court on a related issue. And he said that if Bunning were to fine Davis for not obeying his order it would amount to criminal penalties that would be illegal because Davis has not exercised all of her rights, including the right to a trial by a jury.

Attorneys for the couples suing Davis have said she should be fined because she continues to earn a taxpayer-funded salary "for duties she fails to perform."

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