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Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses ordered to jail

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ASHLAND, Ky. — A federal judge has ordered a defiant Kentucky clerk to jail after she refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning told Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis she would be jailed until she complied with his order to issue the licenses. Davis said "thank you" before she was led out of the courtroom by a U.S. marshal. She was not in handcuffs.

Davis has refused to issue marriages licenses for two months since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. She argues that her Christian faith should exempt her from signing the licenses.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the courthouse Thursday anticipating a decision from the judge.

A small plane flew over the courthouse, carrying a banner that said: "Stand Firm Kim." On the courthouse sidewalk, gay marriage supporters shouted "love is not a sin" while at least three preachers with bullhorns called them sinners.

Lawyers: Issuing licenses 'violates her conscience'

Two other county clerks in Kentucky were also refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, according to a statement on Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear's website.

Bunning ordered Davis to resume the issuing of marriage licenses on Aug. 12. Monday night, the Supreme Court denied an emergency application from Davis, who asked that Bunning's order be put on hold pending appeal.

In a statement released Tuesday, Davis, a Democrat, said she has received death threats but intends to continue to serve as the county clerk -- a position she was elected to fill in November.

In court papers, attorneys for Davis argue that she is unable to comply with the court orders because issuing same-sex marriage licenses "irreparably and irreversibly violates her conscience."

Finding her in contempt of court, they argued in the motion filed Wednesday, also would "substantially burden Davis' religious exercise."

But some scoff at the clerk, suggesting she's a hypocrite because she's been divorced three times. Davis said she's a different person now since becoming a Christian four years ago.

"I am not perfect," she said in a statement. "No one is. But I am forgiven."

The ACLU attorneys, who represent two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples who want to get married in Rowan County, argue that Davis has no legal basis to avoid performing her duties as a government clerk.

And a federal prosecutor said it's time for Davis and her county to comply.

"Government officials are free to disagree with the law, but not disobey it," U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey said in a statement. "The County Clerk has presented her position through the federal court system, all of the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is time for the Clerk and the County to follow the law."