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The Kentucky clerk jailed for her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses continued her legal fight Monday, asking a federal appeals court to free her as she seeks ways around orders that she do her job despite her religious opposition to gay unions.
Kim Davis has been incarcerated since Thursday, when U.S. District Judge David Bunning found her in contempt for continuing to block same-sex couples' attempts to obtain marriage licenses in her Rowan County office. An Apostolic Christian, Davis said authorizing such marriages, which the U.S. Supreme Court deemed legal in June, would violate her religious freedom.
After the Supreme Court made its ruling, Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear ordered all Kentucky clerks to abide by it. Davis defied them. Same-sex couples sued her for contempt. Bunning ordered Davis to issue the licenses, and the Supreme Court upheld his ruling. But Davis still did not budge. Bunning ordered her to jail.
Since then, several of Davis' deputy clerks have been signing off on same-sex marriages in Rowan County. Her supporters question whether those licenses are valid.
On Sunday, Davis' lawyers appealed the contempt ruling with the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
On Monday, the lawyers announced a parallel maneuver: they asked the appeals court to set Davis free while they fight Beshear for bureaucratic changes that would accommodate her religious opposition.
Davis already has sued Beshear on the issue. Monday's motion asks the panel to allow Davis to leave jail while the case moves through the courts.
"There are multiple alternatives available by which individuals can obtain (same sex marriage) licenses without voiding Davis' conscience and stripping Davis of her liberties," the lawyers wrote, according to a copy of the motion posted online.
Among the possible alternatives, the lawyers wrote, were creating an "opt-out exemption" in the marriage license process, deputizing a neighboring county clerk, taking Davis' name off of marriage licenses and having the state distribute the licenses.
"The fact that Kim Davis remains in jail today is an American tragedy that should arouse the conscience of America," one of her lawyers, Harry Mihet, told NBC News.
Davis, 49, worked in the Rowan County clerk's office for 27 years before she was elected county clerk last November. She has refused to resign from the $80,000-a-year post.
While her legal fight continued, Christian protesters gathered outside the Carter County Detention Center in support of her. They held signs that said "Free Kim" and wore T-shirts that read "Christian Lives Matter." They said they feared Davis' jailing represented a growing intolerance in America of Christian values.
"This is not something that happens in America. This is something that happens in a communist country or something," said Lawrence Bishop II, pastor of Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio.
Doug Spillman, of Flatwoods, Kentucky, said the protests were the beginning of a larger movement among Christians seeking to try to make their voices heard.
"The homosexual agenda has unleashed a sleeping giant," Spillman said.
They will rally again on Tuesday, and are expected to be joined by Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who also plans to visit Davis in jail.
Absent from the rallies have been the kinds of confrontations that unfolded last week in Davis' office, where same-sex couples and their supporters loudly demanded she follow the law, and her own backers shouted for her not to give in.
But the divisions remain sharp.
Teressa Frazier sat eating lunch with her father in Grayson, Kentucky, not far from the rallying Christians. She said she thought Davis should be impeached for her refusal to issue the licenses.
"This country was founded on the separation of church and state," Frazier said. "And to deny someone a civil right based on a religious tenet is not acceptable to me."
A local Presbyterian pastor, Josh Akers, said Davis had a right to believe that same-sex couples shouldn't wed. "What we don't support is her right to impose that belief on others through the power of her office."