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LOUISVILLE — In returning to work Monday, Kim Davis, the embattled Kentucky county clerk at the center of the dispute over gay marriage and religious liberty, indicated that she will not interfere with any deputy clerk who issues marriage licenses, but said she will not personally issue or authorize any of the forms.
"If any of them feels that they must issue an unauthorized license to avoid being thrown in jail, I understand their tough choice and I will take no action against them," Davis said in a statement outside the courthouse.
"However, any unauthorized license they issue will not have my name, my title or my authority on it," she said. "Instead, the license will state that they are issued pursuant to a federal court order."
Davis said she has "great doubts" that licenses issued under these conditions are even valid.
Davis took several days off to spend with family after her high-profile release from the Carter County Detention Center last week.
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At least one deputy clerk in Rowan County, Brian Mason, has been issuing licenses since U.S. District Judge David Bunning jailed Davis on Sept. 3 for contempt of court.
Bunning released Davis from jail Tuesday, six days later, on the condition that she does not interfere with her deputies issuing the licenses.
Her attorneys, however, say the licenses issued in her absence — around 10, mostly for same-sex couples — are not valid without Davis’ authorization.
Bunning warned Davis that she would be sanctioned again if she violates the conditions of her release and ordered the court-appointed lawyers for her deputy clerks to report every 14 days on whether they are continuing to comply with their sworn pledge to issue licenses to all couples.
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During Davis’ contempt of court hearing earlier this month, five of the six deputy clerks said they would issue same-sex marriage licenses. The only holdout was Davis’ son, Nathan Davis.
Upon returning to work in Morehead, Davis was greeted by a billboard installed by a non-profit organization that advocates for LGBTQ rights.The billboard erected by Planting Peace reads: "Dear Kim Davis, The fact that you can’t sell your daughter for three goats and a cow means we’ve already redefined marriage."
Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in June. Four couples, two gay and two straight, sued her, arguing that she must fulfill her duties as an elected official despite her personal Christian faith. The forms given out while she was in jail do not bear her name.
Timeline of dissent
Soon after the Supreme Court ruled to allow gays to marry, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis decided to stop offering any marriage licenses through her office.
• June 26. Supreme Court rules 5-4 that states must recognize and allow same-sex marriage. Later that Friday, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear directs county clerks to comply.
• June 29. Davis declines to issue marriage licenses on Monday, saying the new law of the land conflicts with her religious beliefs.
• July 2. American Civil Liberties Union sues Davis and Rowan County on behalf of four couples, two gay and two straight.
• July 8. Some county clerks ask for a special session of the Kentucky Legislature to pass a bill to accommodate those who have religious reasons for not issuing the licenses. Beshear says no, in part because of the expense.
• Aug. 12. U.S. District Judge David Bunning says Davis must issue licenses to same-sex couples.
• Aug. 27. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals declines to grant Davis a stay of Bunning’s decision.
• Sept. 1. The Supreme Court refuses to grant Davis a stay.
• Sept. 3. Davis is found in contempt of court and taken to jail.
• Sept. 8. Davis is released from jail.
Contributing: Chris Kenning, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal; Doug Stanglin and Trisha Thadani, USA TODAY.
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