Federal judge says decision in same-sex marriage case to come in August

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COVINGTON, Ky. (WKYT/AP) - A federal judge heard testimony Monday from Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who stopped issuing marriage licenses because same-sex marriage violates her religious beliefs.

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning, son of former Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, heard testimony Monday from Davis, the clerk who is at the center of a federal lawsuit filed by The American Civil Liberties Union. Earlier this month, Bunning heard testimony from the couples involved in the lawsuit. He did not make a decision after hearing testimony Monday, but said he would have one the week of Aug. 11.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Davis on the behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples. The couples named in the suit are April Miller and Karen Roberts, Shantel Burke and Stephen Napier, Jody Fernandez and Kevin Holloway, and L. Aaron Skaggs and Barry W. Spartman.

Attorneys tried to have Davis testify last week but a judge delayed her testimony because she had not been properly notified of the lawsuit against her. The hearing reconvened Monday in Covington.

Davis has said she cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because it would violate her religious beliefs. Some clerks have asked Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to call a special session of the state legislature to address the issue. Beshear has declined, citing the cost to taxpayers.

On Monday, Davis was on the stand for about an hour and 20 minutes. She was questioned by her attorneys and the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

While on the stand, Davis was asked several questions, including how she's done her job as county clerk, where her objection comes from and who has the final say when it comes to the constitution.

Davis told the court she's an apostolic Christian and her religion says that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. She says her right to freedom of religion affords her the ability to deny same-sex licenses because she believes the wording on the certificate means she's authorizing the license. Davis said that is something she can't do.

"If I authorize it, I'm saying I agree with it. I can't do that," she said.

An attorney representing the couples who are suing Davis asked her how far a clerk could take their religious beliefs when it comes to denying licenses.

He asked, for example, whether a clerk could refuse a license if they did not believe interracial marriage was biblical. He also asked whether a clerk could deny a license to someone who wanted to get remarried after a divorce.

Davis said she couldn't speak for anyone else and didn't answer any hypothetical questions.

The attorney asked Davis who had the final say when it came to what the Constitution says. Davis replied that she didn't know.

After the hearing, the plaintiff's attorney, Dan Canon, said that Davis' explanation was unworkable.

"If you apply her conception of the discretion that a county clerk has in office to its logical conclusion, the simple fact of the matter is that anybody can deny anybody a marriage license anytime they want to based on their own personal religious beliefs. That policy, quite frankly, if applied statewide, would be chaos," he said.

Davis' attorney, Roger Ganham, said the plaintiffs had traveled from Rowan County to Boyd and Kenton counties for the hearings, and could have gone to another county for the license.

"This case is not about these plaintiffs' desire to get married. This case is about the plaintiffs' desire to force Kim Davis to approve and authorize their marriage in violation of her Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs," Ganham said.

Davis is not the only Kentucky clerk to refuse marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in all 50 states. She and some other county clerks want the legislature to create an alternative way for same sex couples to get marriage licenses.

Casey County Clerk Casey Davis has pushed for the state to issue marriage licenses online. He met with Gov. Steve Beshear earlier this month to urge the governor to consider that and inquire about holding a special legislative session to tackle the issue. Beshear's office has said it will not hold a special session. Shortly after their meeting, Casey Davis said the governor told him to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or resign. Casey Davis was in the courtroom Monday morning to support Kim Davis.

"He so bluntly told me to do mine or quit. I'm going to ask him to do his job or quit. That's what his job is, so at this time, he needs to call that special session and get this taken care of before litigation, before more costs to local communities and the state. All the fees and things that are going out are going to far exceed the cost of a special session," Casey Davis said.

The plaintiff's attorney asked Davis if she would change her position if the judge orders her to issue those licenses. She said she'd deal with that when the time comes.

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