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Marriage Equality

Kim Davis to Appeals Court: She Was Held 'Prisoner of Conscience'

Kim Davis to Appeals Court: She Was Held 'Prisoner of Conscience'

Kim Davis Appeals Rulings

Davis is appealing a federal judge's rulings, including the contempt-of-court order that sent her to jail, saying her religious freedom has been violated.

Kim Davis is appealing the series of rulings that sent her to jail for five days in September, with her lawyers saying the judge who issued them was "threatening to hold her hostage indefinitely as a prisoner of her conscience."

Attorneys for Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, Ky., filed the appeal late Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the Associated Press reports. The 126-page opening brief asks the appeals court to throw out four rulings by U.S. District Judge David Bunning, including his order that held her in contempt of court and the one that bars her from interfering with the issuance of marriage licenses.

Davis had ceased issuing all marriage licenses and forbidden her deputies to issue them shortly after the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality in June, as she says same-sex marriage conflicts with her Christian beliefs. Four couples sued her, and Bunning ruled that she and her deputies must issue licenses to all eligible couples.

When Davis continued to defy those orders, Bunning found her in contempt of court, resulting in her jail time. Since her release, her office has resumed issuing licenses, with a deputy serving same-sex couples. But she has altered the forms to remove her name from them and adding the words "pursuant to federal court order," throwing their validity into question.

But Davis should not be operating under Bunning's orders at all, says the brief from Davis's lawyers, who are with the right-wing legal group Liberty Counsel, designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. "By imprisoning Davis and threatening to hold her hostage indefinitely as a prisoner of her conscience, the district court imposed direct pressure and substantial burden on Davis, forcing her to choose between her religious beliefs and forfeiting her essential personal freedom on one hand, or abandoning those beliefs to keep her freedom on the other hand," wrote attorney Jonathan D. Christman.

The brief also states that Davis did not keep anyone from marrying, as couples could have obtained licenses in other Kentucky counties, and denounces Gov. Steve Beshear for not calling a special session of the legislature to discuss ways to accommodate county clerks with religious objections to same-sex marriage. Davis has also sued Beshear, saying he violated her religious freedom with his expectation that county clerks would comply with the Supreme Court ruling.

Beshear will leave office in the new year due to term limits. In the race to replace him, Republican businessman and Davis supporter Matt Bevin bested Democrat Jack Conway, the state's current attorney general, in Tuesday's election. Liberty Counsel issued a press release saying its attorneys look forward to working with Bevins "to accommodate the religious convictions of Kim Davis and other Kentucky clerks."

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