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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

By Steve Bittenbender

ASHLAND, Ky. (Reuters) — A county clerk in Kentucky who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on religious grounds was held in contempt of court by a U.S. federal judge on Thursday and sent to jail.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was led away by U.S. marshals who confirmed she was under arrest.

“The court doesn’t do this lightly,” District Court Judge David Bunning said in ordering that she be taken into custody.

Bunning also said his earlier injunction ordering Davis to issue marriage licenses applied to everyone and not just the four couples whose suit in July had accused Davis of not doing her job.

Davis has refused to issue licenses to any couples, gay or straight, since the U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution, citing her Christian beliefs.

Before and during the hearing, about 200 demonstrators on both sides of the issue gathered outside the courthouse, some chanting slogans and many holding signs. As word of the ruling emerged, supporters of same-sex marriage erupted in cheers.

Davis’ seven deputies still face their own reckoning as Bunning assigned each of them attorneys and said their fate would be determined at a 1:45 pm EDT hearing, warning them they could face fines or jail.

Davis’ attorney objected, saying Davis had not given her deputies authority to issue marriage licenses.

The hearing in Ashland, Kentucky, lasted just over two hours. Crying at times, Davis maintained that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman and she was unable to recognize same-sex marriages.

“Marriage is a union between one man and one woman,” she said under questioning by her attorney.

Also testifying was April Miller, who along with her partner Karen Jacobs had three times tried to get a marriage license from Davis’ office. They were one of four couples who sued Davis in July.

A U.S. marshal said he did not know to which detention facility she was being sent.

(Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago and Emily Stephenson in Washington; Writing by David Bailey and Ben Klayman; Editing by Howard Goller and Chris Reese)

Photo: Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis gestures as she refuses to issue marriage licenses to a same-sex couple in Morehead, Kentucky, September 1, 2015, in a still image from video provided by WLEX. REUTERS/WLEX/LEX18.com