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Saturday, December 10, 2016

By Emily Stephenson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A county clerk in Kentucky who was briefly jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples said on Friday that she and her family have switched to the Republican Party because the Democrats no longer represented them.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, 50, who has said her beliefs as an Apostolic Christian prevent her from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, said they had changed parties last week. She was a longtime Democrat in eastern Kentucky.

“My husband and I had talked about it for quite a while and we came to the conclusion that the Democratic Party left us a long time ago, so why were we hanging on?” she told Reuters in an interview at a hotel in Washington, where she has traveled to be feted at a Family Research Council event later on Friday.

Davis also said she did not foresee a problem with the current marriage licenses being issued by her office in Morehead, Kentucky. Critics have charged the altered licenses, which removed her name and title and the name of the county, violate an order issued by U.S. District Judge David Bunning and raise questions about their validity.

“I don’t think there should be much of an issue and the judge didn’t have any problem accepting the licenses that were issued when I was incarcerated, which had been altered, so I don’t see that there should be an issue,” she said.

Davis added, however, that if the new licenses became an issue for Bunning, she was prepared to return to jail.

Davis was jailed for five days in September for refusing to comply with Bunning’s order to issue licenses in line with a Supreme Court ruling in June that made gay marriage legal across the United States.

The stance has made Davis and the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Kentucky and other states the latest focus in a long-running debate over gay marriage in the United States.

She has won support from some conservative Republicans, who say the issue is about religious freedom. Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz were among some 4,000 supporters who attended a rally with Davis after her release.

Davis, who returned to work on Sept. 14, has been under the threat of returning to jail if she interferes in the issuance of licenses.

The couples have asked Bunning to consider ordering a limited receivership for the clerk’s office and fines to ensure that it issues valid marriage licenses.

Attorneys for Davis have said the changes made to the form were a good-faith effort to follow her religious beliefs and to meet the court’s order.

After the Supreme Court decision, Davis announced an office policy that no marriage licenses would be issued to any couples. Lawyers representing two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples challenged her policy.

Bunning ordered Davis jailed for contempt on Sept. 3 for refusing to comply with his order to issue licenses. He ordered her released five days later when deputy clerks were issuing licenses.

Davis has asked Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat, state lawmakers and Bunning to accommodate her beliefs. She has also appealed Bunning’s orders to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

(Reporting by Emily Stephenson in Washington; Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Photo: Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis speaks during an interview on Fox News Channel’s ‘The Kelly File’ in New York in this September 23, 2015, file photo. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files