A Kentucky county clerk was jailed on Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and a full day of court hearings failed to put an end to her two-month-old legal fight over a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding same-sex marriage.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning found Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in contempt then elicited a pledge from five of her six deputies to issue the licenses. But attorneys for Davis said she would deny them that authority, raising questions about the validity of any licenses they might issue.
The 49-year-old woman, who has emerged as a darling of social conservatives, has refused to issue licenses to any couples, gay or straight, since the U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution, citing her beliefs as an Apostolic Christian.
“Marriage is a union between one man and one woman,” the soft-spoken Davis told the court under questioning by her attorney.
Bunning warned the deputies they would be back in court if they refused to resume issuing licenses on Friday. “I would hate to have to come back to Ashland,” he said, referring to the court venue. He said it would be up to same-sex couples to decide whether to test the validity of the licenses.
Davis, who broke down crying earlier in her testimony, was led away by U.S. marshals after the first hearing, where Bunning held her in contempt and ordered her jailed. She did not attend the subsequent hearings, but communicated through her attorneys.
Thursday’s proceedings were the culmination of months of legal wrangling and refusals by Davis to abide by a judge’s order to do her job, drawing global attention and protests from those both for and against gay marriage rights.
Before and during the hearings, about 200 demonstrators gathered outside the Ashland, Kentucky, courthouse, some chanting slogans and many holding signs. As word of the ruling emerged, supporters of same-sex marriage erupted in cheers.
Davis was being held at the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Kentucky. Her son Nathan, the one deputy who would not agree to issue gay marriage licenses, was not jailed.