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Judge To Rule Next Month On Kentucky Same-Sex Marriage License Case

Tana Weingartner

U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning in Covington, Kentucky says he will rule no earlier than the week of August 11, 2015 in a case involving whether Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite her religious beliefs.

Bunning heard arguments Monday from Davis and attorneys representing the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of two same-gender couples and two opposite-gender couples.

Davis' office stopped issuing marriage licenses the day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. Davis says she is an Apostolic Christian and believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. She says she prayed and fasted before making her decision. In court, she argued that by issuing licenses she is saying she approves of same-sex marriage.

"If I authorize (same-sex marriage licenses), I'm saying I agree with that and I can't," she said.

She says she stopped issuing all marriage licenses because she did not want to discriminate against anyone.

"I don't want to discriminate against anybody," she said tearfully.

Davis also made it clear that she tried on several occasions prior to the Supreme Court ruling to have the legislature intervene.

ACLU attorneys pointed out that Davis knew about the possibility of the Supreme Court ruling while she was running for the office. She was sworn in January 5, 2015. Attorney Dan Canon questioned whether Davis objected to issuing marriage licenses to people who had been divorced or interracial couples. She replied, "no."

Judge David Bunning also asked several questions. He seemed interested in the part of the state statute outlining who is authorized to perform marriages in Kentucky. He pointed out that County Clerks are not on the list of people who can perform marriages. Davis replied that while she does not perform the marriages, her name on the form says she approves of it.

Outside the federal courthouse, Davis' attorney Roger Gannam said, "As a result of today's hearing Kim Davis still has not been ordered to issue any marriage licenses."

He also noted that the plaintiffs in the case drove an hour's distance to Boyd County last week for an earlier hearing, and Monday they drove two hours for the hearing in Kenton County. He says they could have obtained marriage licenses in either of those two counties.

"What this shows is this case is not about these plaintiff's desire to get married," Gannam says. "This case is about the plaintiff's desire to force Kim Davis to approve and authorize their marriage in violation of her constitutionally protected religious beliefs."

When asked about that argument, attorney Dan Canon responded, "Why should the tax-paying citizens of Rowan County have to go any place else aside from their own county to get a marriage license? Why should they be held to a different standard than anybody else?"

"If you take that policy and carry it to its logical extreme, then anybody in any county can refuse to issue marriage licenses based on their their own personal beliefs, and it's an unsustainable policy, said Canon. "It's not going to work for the state overall."

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.