By Sandhya Somashekhar and Robert Barnes,
The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a Kentucky county clerk’s request to be excused from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the court’s first involvement in a series of legal battles that have erupted since gay couples won the right to marry.
The court, without comment, turned away a request by Kim Davis, the elected clerk of Rowan County in northeast Kentucky, who faces fines or even jail time if she doesn’t begin issuing marriage licenses Tuesday. Davis, a devout Apostolic Christian who opposes same-sex marriage, has argued that doing so would violate her religious liberties.
Davis’s resistance has led to the most prominent of a number of legal skirmishes that have broken out since the high court decided in June that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. The ruling was implemented relatively smoothly at first but lately has encountered resistance, particularly in the South.
Two counties in Texas and about a dozen in Alabama are also refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to gay rights groups. In Mississippi, two same-sex couples are challenging a state law barring gay couples from adopting children. And in Florida, a couple has sued over a state agency’s refusal to name both of them as parents on their child’s birth certificate.
Gay rights groups say this backlash is to be expected. Following Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s forceful opinion establishing no legal distinction between gay and straight married couples, gay activists expect the cases eventually to be resolved in favor of gay rights.
But the dogged resistance in some corners suggests that the battles may drag on for some time. And it suggests that there will be continuing pressure on courts to balance the constitutional rights of gay couples to marry with the rights of public officials and others who say condoning same-sex marriage violates their religious beliefs.
Davis — who stopped issuing licenses to all couples, gay and straight — had not indicated late Monday how she would respond to the court’s decision. If she refuses to comply, she could be held in contempt, leading to daily fines or jail time. At a recent rally, Davis adopted a defiant tone, asking for prayers to “stand firm.”
Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, a Christian …Read More