Appeals Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ruling in Kentucky

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

6th Circuit Orders Anti-Gay Clerk to Begin Issuing Marriage Licenses Immediately.

On Wednesday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay a lower court’s decision ordering Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, to resume granting marriage licenses.

Same-sex couples fighting for the right to marry won yet another legal victory Wednesday — this time in Kentucky, though the county clerk on the other side of the battle might not be ready to throw in the towel yet. Davis—a taxpayer-funded public servant—refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects gay people’s right to wed in Obergefell v. Judges found that “it cannot be defensibly argued that the holder of the Rowan County Clerk’s Office, apart from who personally occupies that office, may decline to act in conformity with the United States Constitution,” especially after a U.S. A US district judge ordered Davis to issue the marriage licenses, but later delayed his order so that Davis could have time to appeal to the sixth circuit. Several same-sex couples sued, but Davis insisted that the state was violating her rights to free speech and free exercise of religion by forcing her to grant licenses to gay people.

They said that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, whose office is in Moorehead, Ky., had little or no likelihood of prevailing on appeal in her official capacity. Citing personal religious objections against gay marriage, Davis has denied licenses to all couples following the June Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for same-sex marriage nationwide. In testimony last month in federal court in Covington, Ky., Davis described herself as an Apostolic Christian who believes marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman under the Bible — “God’s holy word” — and said she contemplated her policy for months. The American Civil Liberties Union had sued her on behalf of two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples, alleging that Davis violated their constitutional rights when refusing to issue licenses. The couples argued that they live, work and pay taxes in Rowan County, a county of about 24,000 residents halfway between Lexington, Ky., and Huntington, W.Va., and shouldn’t have to drive elsewhere to obtain the paperwork to get married.

District Judge David Bunning granted a preliminary injunction against Davis this month, finding that her religious convictions do not excuse her from performing official duties and upholding her oath of office. The Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom organization representing Davis, plans to request a stay from Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan as early as Thursday.

Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the group, said lawyers also will seek clarification from the District Court on whether Davis must personally issue licenses or if someone else in her office can perform the task. He said he didn’t know if Davis would resume providing the forms Thursday but called it “disturbing” that the appellate judges cast doubt on her appeal. “It suggests that individuals within a government agency don’t have any independent constitutional rights,” he said. “They don’t lose their constitutional or statutory rights by virtue of working in a public office.” Davis has argued that signing off on the forms amounts to condoning same-sex marriage and that her objections are protected under the First Amendment and Kentucky’s religious freedom law.

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