Lawyers for Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis say the altered marriage licenses her office issued to same-sex couples are valid because they have been recognized by Kentucky's highest elected officials.
Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. She spent five days in jail for refusing to obey a federal judge's ruling ordering her to issue the licenses.
When Davis got out of jail, she changed the marriage licenses to remove her name and to say they were issued under the authority of a federal court order. Last month, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union questioned the validity of these altered licenses and asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to order Davis and her employees to reissue them.
The ACLU asked the judge that if Davis refused, he fine her or appoint someone else to issue the licenses for her.
Tuesday, Davis' lawyers responded in a new court filing calling the ACLU's request "extreme, unnecessary and improper." They noted Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway have both recognized the licenses as valid. And they said the ACLU was trying to "needlessly create controversy where it does not currently exist."
"Davis has taken reasonable steps and good faith efforts to substantially comply with this Court's orders, and marriage licenses are being issued in Rowan County that are authorized, approved, and recognized as valid by Kentucky's highest elected officials," attorney Jonathan Christman wrote for the Liberty Counsel, the Florida-based law firm that represents Davis.
The ACLU called the altered marriage licenses "a stamp of animus against the LGBT community, signaling that, in Rowan County, the government's position is that LGBT couples are second-class citizens unworthy of official recognition and authorization of their marriage licenses but for this Court's intervention and Order."
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But Christman said the ACLU cannot "allege that Rowan County has issued or is issuing marriage licenses to the 'LGBT community' that are in any way different from licenses issued to the 'non-LGBT community.'"
Bunning has not yet ruled on the ACLU's request.