In a last-minute pleading late Wednesday, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis asked a federal judge to not hold her in contempt of court Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses.
Davis told U.S. District Judge David Bunning it's unfair to punish her for violating his Aug. 12 order requiring her to resume issuing marriage licenses because she "is presently unable to comply." Davis said the order "irreparably and irreversibly violates her conscience by directing her to authorize and issue same-sex marriage licenses bearing her name and approval."
Davis has refused to give anyone a marriage license since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage June 26, citing her religious objections. A half-dozen local couples are suing her.
In her pleading, Davis also noted she has broad political support in Kentucky.
"Leading Kentucky legislators from both parties in both houses uniformly agree that the legislature needs to address the entire marriage scheme in light of (the Supreme Court decision), but also agree that Davis' religious beliefs should be, and can be, accommodated. Both gubernatorial candidates in Kentucky have indicated an intent to support county clerks' individual rights," wrote Jonathan Christman, one of Davis' attorneys.
The contempt hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at the U.S. District Courthouse in Ashland.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, filed a brief in the case late Wednesday asking Bunning to "delay, withhold or temper his ruling in this case until the General Assembly has an opportunity to establish new frameworks under Kentucky law."
He said the Supreme Court "completely obliterated" Kentucky's system of obtaining a marriage license.
"The General Assembly will be compelled to amend many sections of Kentucky law, not just for the issuance of marriage licenses, to comply with the recent Supreme Court decision," Stivers said in a statement.
Possible legislative responses to the clerks' protest have been discussed, including removing clerks' names from marriage license paperwork to make them feel less personally involved, or transferring the authority to issue marriage licenses to a state agency. However, lawmakers are not scheduled to convene until January.
Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo both said Wednesday that they favored a special legislative session to update the state's laws on marriage. However, the lawmakers said they doubted there would be a special session because Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has expressed no desire to call one before he leaves office in December. Only the governor may call a special session and set its agenda.
Apart from Davis, clerks in Casey and Whitley counties have refused to comply with the Supreme Court decision.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey issued a statement late Wednesday saying his office had "grave concerns" about Davis' refusal to comply with the court's order.
"It is time for the clerk and the county to follow the law," said Harvey, whose office has not been involved in the ongoing civil lawsuits.