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ACLU of Kentucky

Judge Orders Rowan County Clerk to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction to Four Rowan County Couples Denied Service by County Clerk

U.S. district judge David Bunning ruled today that four couples must be able to obtain marriage licenses in Rowan County, holding that personal religious beliefs do not exempt government officials from performing the duties of public office.

The ruling comes in a federal lawsuit filed in July 2015 against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis who refused to provide marriage licenses to any couple – same-sex or opposite sex – following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

“Government officials have a duty to impartially administer the law. When a law is updated, they cannot refuse to provide essential public services simply because they object, for personal religious reasons,” said Michael Aldridge, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky.

ACLU of Kentucky Cooperating Attorney Dan Canon added, “The ruling represents a total victory for our clients, and a reaffirmation of the institutions we have in place to protect American democracy. Elected officials cannot be permitted to ignore the rule of law by governing according to their own private beliefs.”

In his opinion, Judge Bunning stated that by refusing to issue the marriage licenses, Davis “is refusing to recognize the legal force of U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence in performing her duties.” He added that Davis’ “religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk.”

The ACLU of Kentucky and cooperating attorneys from the firm Clay Daniel Walton & Adams represented four Rowan County couples in the case, two same-sex and two opposite-sex, who were refused a marriage license because of Ms. Davis’ attempt to avoid issuing licenses to gays and lesbians.

Click here to read Judge Bunning’s Ruling