Chris Tilley / Reuters

Kentucky clerk launches new appeal over marriage licenses

Gay marriage opponent Kim Davis has told her attorneys she will ‘never violate her conscience’

A Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses on Sunday filed a notice of appeal over a contempt ruling that landed her in jail, her attorneys said.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, 49, who refused to issue the licenses due to her Apostolic Christian belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, said she was prepared to remain in jail where she has been reading a Bible since her incarceration for contempt on Thursday, her lawyers said.

Davis was jailed for refusing to follow the orders of U.S. District Judge David Bunning. Legal experts saw little chance of her appeal succeeding, especially when she has already lost a series of other appeals.

Davis on Friday told her attorneys she would "never violate her conscience or betray her God."

Bunning has said he will not release Davis unless she agrees to obey his order. Davis' attorneys said the only way she would relent would be to change Kentucky's state law so that marriage licenses are not issued under the authority of the county clerk. They claim the licenses that have been issued in Davis’ absence – including the first same-sex marriage license issued to James Yates and his partner William Smith, Jr. on Friday – were not valid.

Davis' stance has come to symbolize the cultural gap over gay marriage in the United States. Some social conservatives say she is being denied religious freedom. Others say that with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June making same-sex marriage legal nationwide, Davis is defying her duty as a public servant by refusing to implement the law of the land.

"The contempt order itself was unlawful," Roger Gannam, a lawyer for Davis, told Reuters. Gannam is an attorney with Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based Christian religious advocacy organization that is backing her in the legal fight.

The notice of appeal was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky and officially starts the appeals process.

Bunning had ordered Davis in August to issue the licenses. Her request for a stay of his order was denied by a U.S. appeals court and by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Judge Bunning was ready to release her if she would not interfere with her deputies issuing marriage licenses. She declined. The judge's actions were entirely reasonable given that testimony," said Allison Connelly, director of the Legal Clinic at the University of Kentucky College of Law.

Meanwhile, Davis is waiting for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio, to rule on her request to set aside Bunning's ruling in the overall case. In denying the request for a stay on the order, the appeals court said there was little chance she would prevail.

On Saturday up to 500 supporters gathered outside the Kentucky jail where Davis is being held to offer their support.

The thrice-divorced Davis was born in Breathitt County, the heart of Appalachia, about 60 miles south of Morehead. 

Her faith in Apostolic Christianity helped her escape what her lawyer described as a life in the "devil's playground" and led her to face jail in opposition to the Supreme Court ruling upholding same-sex marriage.

Al Jazeera and wire services 

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