Ky. clerk says won’t personally authorize gay marriage licenses -- or interfere

The Kentucky county clerk at the center of a national firestorm over her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses vowed Monday -- just days after her release from jail -- that she would not prevent her office from issuing such licenses but would not personally authorize them either.

Kim Davis, the clerk for Rowan County, detailed what she described as a "remedy" during a brief press conference as she returned to work for the first time since her jailing.

Whether that "remedy" satisfies the courts -- or undermines the legal validity of the licenses -- remains to be seen. Asked if the licenses issued by Davis' office without her name would still be valid, a spokeswoman in Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway's office told that both Conway and the county attorney have "said publicly that they believe the licenses are legal." The spokeswoman added, "We have not provided an official opinion on this issue."

Under Davis' new plan, her deputy clerks will be allowed to issue gay marriage licenses if they choose. She said she would not take action against them.

But the licenses "will not be issued or authorized by me," Davis said. "Any license will not have my name, my title or my authority on it ... instead, it will say it's issued pursuant to a federal court order."

Davis added that she has "great doubts whether a license issued under these conditions is valid."

Last Tuesday, U.S. District Judge David Bunning, ordered Davis released from jail after finding the court was "satisfied" that her office's deputy clerks were issuing marriage licenses "to all legally eligible couples."

At the same time, Bunning directed Davis not to "interfere in any way" with the marriage licenses being issued by her office. Should she interfere, the judge said, "that will be considered a violation of this Order and appropriate sanctions will be considered."

Davis on Monday appealed to the legislature to provide for an accommodation in situations like this.

"My simple request for an accommodation has gone unheard," she said. Choking up, she said she's faced with a "seemingly impossible choice" of "my conscience or my freedom."

"I do not want to have this conflict. I don't want to be in the spotlight," she said.

Afterward, one reporter tweeted a picture showing Davis' office, with its blinds closed and a sheriff's deputy standing outside.

On Friday, Davis' attorneys filed an appeal asking for another delay in issuing the licenses. They argued in their motion to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that all the same-sex couples who sued Davis for a license received one from her deputies while she was in jail. Therefore, they said, her office should not be required to issue them to any more couples once she returns to work.

The American Civil Liberties Union initially filed a suit against Davis on behalf of four couples, two straight and two gay, who were denied licenses after the Supreme Court in June effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide. When Davis refused Bunning's order to issue licenses, the judge declared the clerk in contempt of court and jailed her for five days.

In her absence, her deputy clerks issued licenses and both same-sex couples who sued her received one. But Bunning clarified his order to include all eligible couples who request a marriage license.

In the appeal filed Friday, Davis' lawyers, with the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel, argued that Bunning issued the clarification improperly and once again asked the appeals court to delay the mandate that she issue licenses.

The appeals court has already dismissed Davis' primary argument that her religious faith should exempt her from licensing a gay marriage. "It cannot be defensibly argued that the holder of the Rowan County Clerk's office, apart from who personally occupies that office, may decline to act in conformity with the United States Constitution as interpreted by a dispositive holding of the United States Supreme Court," a panel wrote two weeks ago when it rejected her last appeal.

Since Bunning first ordered Davis to issue the marriage licenses, the clerk and her attorneys have made several attempts to legally get around it. One of their strategies was to ask Bunning to stop Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Library and Archives Commissioner Wayne Onkst from directing Davis to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Bunning denied that request on Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.