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Kim Davis, Kentucky Clerk Blocking Gay Marriages, Has Had Her Own Marital Strife

Kim Davis was divorced three times before a religious awakening that cemented her obedience to scripture — and her defiance of the Supreme Court.
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The Kentucky clerk who says she's following "God's word" in her refusal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples is a longtime civil servant with her own history of marital struggles.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was divorced three times and had children out of wedlock before experiencing a religious awakening that cemented her obedience to Christian scripture — and her defiance of the country's highest court.

Her act of resistance has rocked her small Appalachia community 60 miles east of Lexington and made headlines nationwide, fed by a video of her denying a marriage license to David V. Moore and his partner of 17 years, David Ermold. The Tuesday confrontation sparked a protest inside the Rowan County Courthouse, with supporters of the couple and of Davis shouting over each other. A similar scene unfolded Wednesday, when a second same-sex couple asked for a marriage license.

Davis, who worked as deputy clerk for 27 years before she was elected clerk in November, said in a written statement through her lawyers that she was committed to her job, but that issuing the license would violate "God's definition of marriage" and imperil her religious freedom.

"I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will," said Davis, 49. "To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word."

She refuses to resign.

A federal judge has summoned Davis and her deputies to a hearing on Thursday. Same-sex couples who have sued Davis for marriage licenses have asked that she be held in contempt and fined, but not thrown in jail.

The American Civil Liberties Union accused Davis of placing herself above the law, while supporters, including religious leaders, have urged her to stand firm.

One of her lawyers told NBC News that she is exploring other options — including issuing licenses without her name attached to them. On Wednesday, she asked a federal judge to free her of the obligation of issuing licenses.

Being a clerk runs in Davis' blood. While deputy clerk, she worked for her mother, and her son Nathan now works for her. Nathan Davis turned away a gay couple himself earlier in August, The Associated Press reported.

Davis, an Apostolic Christian, says her commitment to her faith came after she found “a message of grace” four years ago when she went to church following the death of her mother-in-law.

"I am not perfect. No one is," she said in her statement. "But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God."

Related: Kentucky Clerk Asks Judge, Again, For a Way Out of Gay-Marriage Order

She didn't go into details, but Davis may have been referencing the turbulent marital life that preceded her born-again experience.

She was first married in 1984, when she was 18, and divorced a decade later, court records show. Five months after the marriage dissolved, she gave birth to twins by another man.

In 1996, she married again, and her new husband adopted the twins. They divorced in 2006.

The following year, she married the father of her twins. That third marriage lasted less than a year.

In 2009, Davis remarried her second husband, Joe Davis. They remain wed.

One of her lawyers, Mathew Staver of the Christian firm Liberty Counsel, said that most Rowan County taxpayers — who pay her $80,000 annual salary — stand by her.

“She has a lot of support, and no one’s actually called for her recall,” he told NBC News.

Staver called her "a woman of strong faith" navigating colliding responsibilities.

"We don’t know how this is going to end up,” Staver said. “Certainly Kim Davis never wanted to be in this situation. It’s a difficult pill to swallow, in her words.”