Federal judge hears arguments in ACLU same-sex marriage case

ASHLAND, Ky. (WKYT/AP) - A federal judge on Monday heard arguments about a county clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning, son of former Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, heard testimony from the couples involved in the lawsuit filed against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who says same-sex marriage violates her religious beliefs.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Davis on behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples who were denied marriage licenses. 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.

Davis is one of a handful of local officials across the country who has refused to comply with the court's order because she says it violates her religious beliefs.

On Monday, couples testified but Davis did not appear because she wasn't served a summons. The hearing was continued and Bunning will hear more testimony. A new court date has not been scheduled.

Afterward, William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said they were happy their clients had "the opportunity to explain to a judge their experience of being denied marriage licenses they are eligible for in Rowan County" and they look forward to completing the proceedings "so that our clients may receive the relief they are entitled to.”

Fernandez, one of the ACLU's clients, said her and her partner, Kevin Holloway were excited to hear the U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, but "didn’t think it would actually affect our lives."

"We are heterosexual, home owning, taxpaying, voting residents of Rowan County," Fernandez said in a prepared statement. "We live, work, and shop in Rowan County. We volunteer and plan to retire here. Clerk Kim Davis denied our license because of her personal beliefs. She stopped issuing licenses to any couple, and told us to get one in another county. We were shocked, and couldn’t believe we weren’t going to be issued a license in accordance with the law. [Kevin and I] were raised in the Lutheran Church, and as we understand Christianity, our marriage, and those of others, should be encouraged and celebrated.”

Michael Aldridge, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said the vast majority of Kentucky county clerk’s offices, and municipalities across the United States for that matter, are "open to everyone on the same terms, including to people who are gay and lesbian."

He noted that Rowan County is one of three Kentucky counties "violating the rights of everyone that is eligible for a marriage license (both gay and straight couples) in an attempt to keep same-gender couples from obtaining licenses and that’s wrong."

"Government officials, who have sworn an oath to uphold the law shouldn’t be able to pick and choose who they’re going to serve, or which duties they will perform, based on their religious beliefs,” Aldridge said.

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