A Kentucky clerk who defied orders to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was released from jail Tuesday, but her lawyer says she will continue to resist until officials find a way to accommodate her religious opposition to gay unions.
Kim Davis emerged from the Carter County Detention Center to a swell of cheers from Christian supporters who’d been rallying outside the gates since she was ordered behind bars on Thursday. She said nothing, but stood with her lawyer, Mat Staver, who promised she would not back down until her demands were met.
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“She’s not going to violate her conscience,” Staver said.
That set up another legal confrontation on a case that is becoming a case study on the continued resistance to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage.
Davis, 49, the clerk of Rowan County, has defied repeated court orders to allow same-sex marriage licenses, saying it would violate her Christian beliefs. Arguing that her religious freedom is being compromised, she has asked state officials to develop alternative ways for the licenses to be issued without requiring her to authorize them.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning jailed Davis after finding her in contempt. Since then, five of her deputies have been granting licenses to same-sex couples.
On Tuesday, Bunning ordered her release, with the caveat that if she interfered with the deputies, “appropriate sanctions will be considered.”
That seems likely, since Davis has already told Bunning that she would not allow any same sex marriage licenses to be issued from her office, even if she wasn’t the one signing them. That’s because all licenses issued by her office are, legally, authorized by her.
“Nothing has been resolved,” Staver told NBC News.
“She told the court Thursday that she can’t allow licenses to go out under her name and her authority that authorize a marriage that collides with her conscience and religious conviction, and Kim is not changed on that position,” Staver said.
Since her jailing, Christian supporters have rallied outside the Carter County Detention Center daily.
Bunning’s order also requires the five deputy clerks in Rowan County to file status reports every 14 days detailing their compliance with his earlier orders that the office issue licenses to same-sex couples in accordance with the Supreme Court’s June ruling.
Two other clerks in Kentucky — Casey Davis in Casey County, and Kay Schwartz in Whitley County — are also refusing to issue marriage license to same-sex couples based on the same religious-freedom argument. They have not been subject to any legal challenges, and so have not been threatened with jail.
Staver pointed out that Davis’ release also does nothing to address the issues in those other counties.
“Other clerks are going to have the same problem. They already do,” Staver said. “They just haven’t been targeted yet with jail time.”