The Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples has taken reasonable steps to comply substantially with a judge’s orders and should not face further contempt citations, her attorneys said on Tuesday.
Lawyers for couples suing Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis have argued that she made material changes to the marriage forms upon her return from jail in September that put her out of compliance with U.S. District Judge David Bunning’s orders.
They asked Bunning to impose fines or a limited receivership on the clerk’s office in the dispute that has become the latest focal point in a long-running debate over gay marriage in the United States.
Lawyers for Davis, whose meeting with Pope Francis during his trip to the United States last month sparked widespread debate when it became public, said in a court filing that state-elected officials see the licenses as valid.
Bunning’s order said nothing about the details the licenses must contain and he had already permitted alterations, the lawyers said.
Davis has cited her beliefs as an Apostolic Christian to deny marriage licenses to gay couples even as she has been married herself four times and has had some children out of wedlock.
She refused to issue any licenses after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June made gay marriage legal across the United States and she was sued by gay couples.
Davis was jailed for five days in September for refusing to issue the licenses and has been under the threat of returning to jail if she interferes in the issuance of licenses.
Opponents say Davis is abdicating her duties by refusing to issue marriage licenses.
“It has never really been about a marriage license – Rowan County has issued the licenses – it is about forcing their will on a Christian woman through contempt of court charges, jail, and monetary sanctions,” Mat Staver, a lawyer representing Davis, said in a statement.
Davis said when she returned to work that she removed her name, title and personal authorization on the licenses. A deputy clerk has issued licenses since her jailing in early September.
Davis has asked Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat, state lawmakers and Bunning to accommodate her beliefs. She has appealed the orders to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Kentucky’s attorney general believes the forms altered by Davis are valid licenses, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Sandra Maler)