A Kentucky county clerk petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday for an emergency order allowing her to continue to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a move coming two days after a federal appeals court rejected her request.
In a related move, a federal judge refused to extend a stay of his own ruling requiring the clerk to furnish marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples while she appealed on the grounds that her religious faith overrides her duties as a public servant.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning said earlier in August that Kim Davis had to live up to her responsibilities as the Rowland County clerk despite her religious convictions, and he issued a preliminary injunction requiring her to issue marriage licenses.
Bunning put his order on hold through Aug. 31 to give Davis an opportunity to ask the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a longer stay, which the appellate court denied on Wednesday. The circuit court found Davis had little chance of prevailing on the merits of her case.
Davis contends that to approve marriage licenses for same-sex applicants would violate her deeply held religious belief that matrimony is between one man and one woman.
Rather than comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling in June legalizing same-sex matrimony nationwide, Davis has refused since then to approve marriage licenses for any couples at all.
If forced to approve marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples, the "searing act of validation would forever echo in her conscience," her lawyers said in their Supreme Court request on Friday for a stay pending appeal.
Ratcheting up the pressure on Davis, Rowan County Attorney Cecil Watkins has asked Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway to name a special prosecutor to determine if Davis has committed any official misconduct, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported on Friday.
The attorney general's office could not be reached for comment.
Rowland County is a rare holdout in the United States, where almost every district allows same-sex couples to marry or will soon do so once they adjust their bureaucratic paperwork.
Davis, elected as county clerk last year, was taken to federal court by eight people, including gay and lesbian couples, last month.
On Thursday, at least one gay couple tried to file for a marriage license in Davis’ office but was turned away.
(Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Steve Gorman)