ROWAN COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - The U.S. Supreme Court has denied Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis' request for a stay in a judge's ruling, which orders her to issue marriage licenses.
Davis will have to choose whether to issue marriage licenses Tuesday, defying her Christian conviction, or continue defying a federal judge who could fine her or send her to jail.
A gay couple who was denied a marriage license three times have filed a federal lawsuit against Davis, saying they were deprived of their "fundamental, Constitutional right to marry."
The lawsuit was filed Aug. 25 in U.S. District Court by William Smith Jr. and James Yates, but a summons was delivered Monday to Rowan County Judge Executive Walter Blevins, who is named as a defendant with Davis and the county. Other defendants, including Davis, were expected to be served this week, attorneys have told WKYT.
The lawsuit says Davis and Rowan County "willfully, intentionally, and with deliberate indifference" to the couple's rights established a custom or policy to "refuse to issue marriage licenses to individuals eligible to marry in order to deny such individuals, including Smith and Yates, their Constitutional right to marry."
Smith and Yates suffered and "continue to suffer irreparable damage, including but not limited to embarrassment, humiliation, loss of family security and benefits accessible by other married couples," according to the lawsuit. Smith and Yates are seeking a jury trial, a "reasonable amount" for compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees.
Davis has refused to issue marriage licenses, citing her Christian faith and constitutional right to religious liberty, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on June 26 that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. She is being sued by the ACLU because her office stopped issuing marriage licenses.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning had already ordered Davis to issue marriage licenses two weeks ago. He later delayed that ruling until Aug. 31 or until the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling. The appeals court did so on Wednesday, denying Davis' appeal.
Davis is represented by the Liberty Counsel. They are trying to get the deadline extended. Davis' attorneys have filed an appeal.
Mat Staver, a lawyer representing Davis, told the Associated Press "she's going to have to think and pray about her decision overnight."
Smith and Yates, who have been dating for more than nine years, meet all of the requirements to legally marry, the lawsuit says. The couple went to Davis' office on July 6 and Deputy Clerk Brian Mason denied their request for an application to obtain a marriage license, the lawsuit says. Mason told the couple that Davis "had instructed him to deny individuals" from applying for a marriage license, the lawsuit says. The couple was told no one in Rowan County could issue them a license, but they could travel to "neighboring counties, such as Carter County and Bath, to apply for the license."
On Aug. 13, the couple returned to the clerk's office to apply for a marriage license. Another deputy clerk informed them that she was instructed not to provide applications for marriage licenses, the lawsuit says. That same day, Smith and Yates went to the judge executive's office and requested a marriage license. According to the lawsuit, he told them his office was not equipped to issue licenses and "because he was unsure if his signature would be considered valid as there were deputy Rowan County clerks who were available and empowered to issue marriage licenses."
The couple made a third attempt last Thursday, and were denied. Afterward, they went to the Rowan County Attorney's Office and he referred to the Attorney General's Office a charge of official misconduct against Davis.
The attorney general's office is reviewing the case, but they say there's no timetable for if or when they will move forward.