June July 2016
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Kentucky County Clerk Sued Over Denial of Marriage Licenses

Kentucky County Clerk Sued Over Denial of Marriage Licenses

Four couples, two same-sex and two opposite-sex, are suing a Kentucky county clerk who ceased issuing all marriage licenses rather than comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.

The couples, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union’s Kentucky affiliate, filed suit in federal court Thursday afternoon against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, the Associated Press reports. Rowan, a largely rural county in eastern Kentucky, is one of three in the state where clerks had shut down marriage operations rather than serve same-sex couples.

Davis said earlier this week that she objected to issuing marriage licenses to these couples because of her Christian beliefs, the AP reports. “It’s a deep-rooted conviction; my conscience won't allow me to do that,” she said. “It goes against everything I hold dear, everything sacred in my life.”

But refusing to issue marriage licenses goes against the couples’ constitutional rights, the ACLU’s suit says. “We certainly respect the religious beliefs and whatever conscientious choices these clerks make, but it can’t infringe on their job duties and it can’t infringe on the constitutional rights of the citizens that they’re there to serve,” Dan Canon, one of the lawyers representing the couples, told The Courier-Journal of Louisville.

The couples in the suit are April Miller and Karen Roberts, L. Aaron Skaggs and Barry Spartman, Shantel Burke and Stephen Napier, and Jody Fernandez and Kevin Holloway. They all were denied licenses by Davis’s office, according to the ACLU. The suit also seeks class action status for all those similarly affected.

Meanwhile, in Tennessee, all three staff members in the Decatur County clerk’s office turned in their resignations this week rather than comply with the marriage equality ruling. Clerk Gwen Pope and employees Sharon Bell and Mickey Butler resigned because of their religious objections to same-sex marriage, The Jackson Sun reports.

Pope told the Sun the three are “not doing it in any way to draw attention to us. It’s for the glory of God. He’s going to get all the glory.”

Decatur County, in western Tennessee, is the only county in the state where officials have taken a stand against issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, said Drew Baker, area representative for the Tennessee Equality Project, an LGBT rights group. So far, he added, no same-sex couple in the county has requested one.

He told the Sun he admired the workers for “the strength of their convictions,” but pointed out that by refusing to issue the licenses, they’re going against the law.

The resignations are effective July 14. The County Commission plans to meet July 13 to appoint a new county clerk, who will then hire two workers for the office, the Sun reports.

Elsewhere in the South, all county probate judges in Alabama appear to be issuing marriage licenses to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, after a period in which some either turned away same-sex couples or ceased marriage operations altogether. In Louisiana, where Gov. Bobby Jindal has been trying to block marriage equality, yet another court has ordered public officials in the state to obey the Supreme Court ruling, which should finally pave the way for same-sex couples to marry there.

 

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