LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky clerk Kim Davis has obeyed orders to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the months since she spent five nights in jail for refusing to do so, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
United States District Judge David Bunning denied the American Civil Liberties Union's request to order Davis to reissue licenses she had altered to remove her name and title or face the possibility of further punishment. He found that Davis has allowed her deputies to issue licenses to anyone eligible since September and that the altered licenses are likely valid under Kentucky law.
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After a ruling by the United States Supreme Court that effectively legalized gay marriage last summer, Davis, a born-again Christian, at first refused to allow her office to issue any marriage licenses, igniting a national firestorm over religious freedom and civil rights. She was sent briefly to jail for contempt of court. Davis relented during the turbulent court battle, but altered the licenses to remove her name and title.
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The ACLU, which sued Davis on behalf of four rejected couples, asked the judge to make her reissue the marriage licenses and order that she not interfere with her deputies willing to sign them.
Matt Bevin, the state's new Republican governor, signed an executive order in December that removes clerks' names from marriage licenses in response to Davis' case.
On Tuesday, Bunning found that Davis has been complying with his order and that "there is every reason to believe that any altered licenses ... would be recognized under Kentucky law," rendering the ACLU's request "moot."
ACLU Staff Attorney Ria Tabacco Mar issued a statement after the ruling saying she was "heartened" that Judge Bunning believes the altered licenses will likely be honored. But she said the question will have to be settled conclusively by Kentucky state courts.
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Davis' lawyer, Mat Staver, wrote that the judge's ruling rebuffed what he described as a personal vendetta against Davis.
"From the beginning, we have said the ACLU is not interested in marriage licenses. They want Kim Davis' scalp," Staver wrote. "They want to force her to violate her conscience. I am glad the court rejected this bully tactic."