Jailed Clerk Kim Davis' Lawyer Calls Her 'A Prisoner of Her Conscience'

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By Jon Schuppe

The Kentucky court clerk who chose jail over issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples remains unswayed by a night behind bars and remains hopeful that a judge, the governor or lawmakers will grant her an exemption based on her claims of religious freedom, her lawyer said Friday.

Kim Davis, the elected clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, does not intend to quit and is willing to remain in jail until her request is met, the lawyer, Mat Staver, told reporters outside the Carter County Detention Center where she is being held.

"She is a prisoner of her conscience, if you will," Staver said.

Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk Kim Davis has chosen jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.Jonathan Palmer / The Courier-Journal via AP

Staver said there are "easy ways to resolve this." Officials could change state law and state documents so that marriage licenses in Rowan County won't be issued under Davis' legal authority, Staver said. The method may be as simple as an executive order from Gov. Steve Beshear, he said.

"It would be a reasonable accommodation if her name and authority were taken off the licenses," Staver said.

The leaders of the two houses of Kentucky's legislature have said they want to convene special sessions in order to pass a law that would meet Davis' request. Davis asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to delay action on her until then, but Bunning declined the request in a written order Friday.

Davis is expected to remain in jail until next week.

Meantime, Davis' lawyers are preparing to appeal the federal judge's order that found her in contempt, and pursue relief in state court based on the argument that she has been unlawfully imprisoned, Stavers said.

Bunning declined on Friday to put his contempt order on hold while her lawyers plan their appeal.

The judge is also preparing to review arguments on a related lawsuit Davis filed against state officials. Her lawyers have asked Bunning to stop the issuing of marriage licenses while that case is pending.

Davis, 49, was sent to jail Thursday by Bunning, who'd ordered her to issue marriage licenses in compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring gay marriage constitutional.

The jailing followed a series of confrontations with same-sex couples this week in her office in Morehead, Kentucky, where she refused to grant them a marriage license on grounds it would betray her faith as an Apostolic Christian. Following the judge's orders, she said, would violate her religious freedom.

"God's moral law conflicts with my job duties," Davis told Bunning Thursday. "You can't be separated from something that's in your heart and in your soul."

Bunning said Davis would be released only when she agreed to follow his order.

Days after same-sex marriage was declared constitutional, Davis stopped issuing any marriage licenses, whether to gay or straight couples.

After Davis was put behind bars, five of her deputies began issuing marriage licenses themselves. Several same-sex couples took advantage of the opportunity Friday.

The office remained a scene of controversy, with supporters of the couples shouting "love has won" and Davis' supporters quoting Bible scripture.

Davis' lawyers have questioned whether the licenses issued Friday without her authorization would be valid.