Defying the Supreme Court and invoking “God’s authority,” a Kentucky county clerk on Tuesday turned away two same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses, touching off dueling protests until sheriff’s deputies cleared the room, NBC News is reporting.
Couples who have sued the clerk, Kim Davis of Rowan County, quickly asked a federal judge to hold her in contempt. They sought a fine but not jail time.
The standoff came one day after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case. That left in place a lower court ruling ordering Davis to issue the licenses.
On Tuesday, Davis declined licenses to two same-sex couples — two men and two women — who sought them at her office, in the small city of Morehead. With a crush of TV cameras behind them, one of the couples, David Moore and David Ermold, confronted her across a desk.
“I’m not being disrespectful to you,” Davis told Moore.
“You absolutely are,” he said. “You’re treating us like second-class citizens, is what you’re doing.”
He later asked whether she would deny a marriage license to an interracial couple.
“A man and a woman? No,” she said. She added that she was acting “under God’s authority.”
Supporters of Davis shouted, “Praise the Lord!” and “Stand your ground!” Opponents called her a bigot and chanted, “Do your job!” Sheriff’s deputies asked everyone to leave, and demonstrations continued outside.
After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide on June 26, Gov. Steve Beshear ordered all the state’s clerks to comply immediately. Davis, saying she did not want to discriminate, stopped issuing all marriage licenses.
A federal judge ordered her to issue them, and an appeals court agreed. The Supreme Court’s rejection of Davis’ appeal was the first legal skirmish to reach the justices since the landmark marriage ruling in June.
The contempt request was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky on behalf of couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex, who sued Davis.
“Since Defendant Davis continues to collect compensation from the Commonwealth for duties she fails to perform,” lawyers wrote, “plaintiffs urge the Court to impose financial penalties sufficiently serious and increasingly onerous to compel Davis’ immediate compliance without further delay.”
The judge will seek a response from lawyers for Davis. The judge could also hold a hearing before deciding the contempt issue.