The defiant Kim Davis: religious stalwart or hidebound bureaucrat?

County clerk Kim Davis has made a name for herself denying federal court orders to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Ms. Davis argues the First Amendment allows her to cite her religious beliefs as reason for noncompliance.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis gestures as she refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Morehead, Ky., on Tuesday, in a still image from video provided by WLEX. Davis, defying a new US Supreme Court decision and citing 'God's authority,' rejected requests for marriage licenses from same-sex couples on Tuesday in a deepening legal standoff now two months old.

Controversy has ensued as Kim Davis, county clerk for Rowan County, Ky., continues to refuse to issue marriage licenses following the Supreme Court's landmark decision in June and even a high court order to issue the licenses, spurring a nationwide First Amendment rights debate.

Now a national figure, Ms. Davis is defying multiple federal court orders and risking contempt of court and the possibility of fines or jail time for failure to perform the duties of her office.

After the Supreme Court declined to hear her appeal on Monday, Davis invoked "God’s authority" on Tuesday as she denied same-sex couple April Miller and Karen Roberts a marriage license once again.

Married four times, Davis has pledged to serve the Lord, and told the courts that a “searing act of validation [of gay marriage] would forever echo in her conscience,” as The Christian Science Monitor’s Patrik Jonsson reported.

"She made some mistakes," Mathew Staver, Davis’ lawyer said. "She's regretful and sorrowful. That life she led before is not the life she lives now. She asked for and received forgiveness and grace. That's why she has such a strong conscience."

Amid threats to her life and property, Davis remains steadfast.

David Ermold and David Moore also pressed Davis for a marriage license on Tuesday, hoping that Davis would cave now that her legal options have run out. She didn’t budge. She did retreat into her office, but without surrendering.  

So far, four couples, including Mr. Ermold and Mr. Moore, have sued her. They claim that as an elected official, she must uphold her duties regardless of personal faith. In a ruling last month, which Davis appealed, US District Judge David Bunning wrote that the clerk "has arguably [violated the First Amendment] by openly adopting a policy that promotes her own religious convictions at the expense of others."

As the distraught couples’ patience wears thin, Davis is becoming an unlikely religious hero to some. "She is an Apostolic Christian who goes to church three times a week and mentors female prisoners. Her defiance has turned her into a modern-day Paul, her husband, Joe Davis, said on Tuesday," reported Mr. Jonsson.

"Stand firm," Davis' supporters shouted in the lobby of Davis’ clerk office Tuesday, comparing her to the Biblical figures Paul and Silas, who were imprisoned for their faith and rescued by God.

Though lawyers for the rejected couples have asked the judge to hold Davis in contempt of court, they are requesting a “sufficiently serious” fine, not jail time. Judge Bunning has ordered Davis and her six deputy clerks to appear before him Thursday morning at the federal courthouse in Ashland.

Her First Amendment claims have been rejected by several courts, including the highest court in the land, but Davis's uncompromising stance is gaining respect from some religious devotees. As Davis supporter Randy Smith told the Associated Press, "At the end of the day, we have to stand before God, which has higher authority than the Supreme Court."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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