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Contempt hearing for Kentucky county clerk

A federal district court judge in Kentucky on Tuesday ordered a contempt-of-court hearing on Thursday for the county clerk who continued to refuse to issue any marriage licenses, including to same-sex couples.  Judge David L. Bunning told Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and all six of her deputies to be in court in Ashland for the hearing.

The judge acted shortly after lawyers for four same-sex couples formally asked that Davis be held in contempt, and that the judge impose significant and escalating fines to compel her to obey an earlier court order to end her “no-marriage-licenses” policy.  They did not ask that she be jailed.  The attorneys filed that plea soon after the clerk and her deputies again refused license requests by same-sex couples, even though the Supreme Court on Monday had refused to protect her from performing that function of her office.

Attorneys for Davis issued a statement in which she repeated her refusal, for religious reasons, to issue any licenses to any couples, to avoid having to do so for same-sex couples.   She insisted that she was fulfilling God’s commands to her, and declared that she would not resign — as the state’s governor had suggested she do if she continued to refuse to carry out her licensing duties.

The order she has defied is not the Supreme Court’s action on Monday, but the August 12 order by Judge Bunning that she resume licensing marriages.  That is the order that the Supreme Court — and, earlier, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit — had left intact.

Although it appears at this point that the judge’s order may apply only to the four couples who sued the clerk after being turned away, the couples’ lawyers — in a separate filing on Tuesday — asked the judge to explicitly expand his order so that it would apply across the state, and include any same-sex couples who apply for official permission to wed.

Although Davis is the only county clerk in the state who has consistently refused to issue marriage licenses since the Supreme Court in late June opened marriage equally to same-sex couples, other clerks have asked the state’s governor to seek legislation to protect others who object to licensing for same-sex couples.

Although Davis’s case may in time return to the Supreme Court, it will be unfolding this week and in coming weeks first in Judge Bunning’s court and in the Sixth Circuit.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Contempt hearing for Kentucky county clerk, SCOTUSblog (Sep. 1, 2015, 4:14 PM),