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Tension Mounts On Oregon Militia As Standoff Enters Second Week

As their standoff enters its second week, Ammon Bundy and his followers have faced a loss of support and rising opposition from locals, other militia groups, and the ranchers for whose livelihoods they are nominally taking a stand.

Residents of Burns, Oregon, a town near to the wildlife refuge the militia continues to occupy, have become more vocal in their opposition to Bundy’s seizure, having never been entirely comfortable with the idea of taking over a government building in the first place.

“We’re gonna figure some way to get him out,” Travis Williams, a 46-year-old rancher from Harney County, Oregon, told The Guardian over the weekend. Williams had worked with Bundy in December to address the prosecution and imprisonment of Dwight and Steven Hammond. The Hammonds’ sentencing, which mandated that they return to jail and serve the minimum term of five years for arson, brought 300 protestors to the town of 2,800 people, and was the catalyst for Bundy’s takeover of the wildlife refuge.

Williams was surprised by Bundy’s actions after the march, and has since asked him to leave. “I’d like to be able to send him home in the right way that would help us keep this energy that he created,” he told The Guardian. “If he goes home the wrong way – in handcuffs or a casket – I’m afraid that’s going to be bad.” Williams said the standoff brought attention to the administration of public lands, but that it was time for local residents to take up the fight for greater local control of those lands.

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward was also hoping for a peaceful resolution to the standoff. “I’m here to offer safe escort out,” the sheriff told Bundy when they met on Jan. 7. “Go back and kick it around with your folks.” Bundy, who rose to national notoriety during a similar standoff last year with his father, Cliven Bundy, said he would take the sheriff’s offer — “but not yet.” According to The Oregonian, Ward did warn Bundy though, that “at some point, this is all going to have to be resolved.”

Ward’s decision not to arrest the occupiers, as well as the hesitancy of the federal government to intervene, has angered Americans who accused law enforcement of employing double standards. The standoff began shortly after a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who killed Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old African American boy who was killed in Cleveland last year while playing with a toy gun.

The standoff has taken a series of strange twists, with the arrival of another militia group, the Pacific Patriots Network, who said they would establish a buffer zone between the militia currently holed up in the wildlife refuge. Numerous militias, from the Oathkeepers to the Three Percenters, have not voiced their support for Bundy’s cause. Even the Hammonds have said, through their attorney, that they want nothing to do with Bundy.

“Here you have a guy who believes he’s on a mission from God. What the Hammonds want and what the community wants is immaterial,” said Mike Vanderboegh, a founder of the Three Percent Movement, to Reuters.

Vanderboegh and other leaders said they worried Bundy would provoke a violent response from the U.S. government similar to the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, that ended in the deaths of 76 people.

Kentucky Clerk’s Office Issues Marriage License To Gay Couple, Ending Ban

By Steve Bittenbender

MOREHEAD, Ky. (Reuters) — A county clerk’s office in rural Kentucky issued a marriage license to a gay couple on Friday morning after defying a federal judge’s orders for months.

While Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was jailed on Thursday for refusing to follow the orders of U.S. District Judge David Bunning, her deputies processed a license for James Yates and William Smith, who had previously been denied five times, after the clerk’s office doors opened on Friday.

The issuance of the license followed months of legal wrangling between Davis and the courts that drew global attention and protests from supporters and opponents of gay marriage.

Davis, who has become a darling of social conservatives, had refused to issue any marriage licenses under an office policy she created after the U.S. Supreme Court in June made gay marriage legal across the United States. She cited her beliefs as an Apostolic Christian that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Yates and Smith, who held hands entering and exiting the building, paid $35.50 in cash for the license. Deputy clerk Brian Mason, who had a sign in the office reading “marriage license deputy,” shook their hands and congratulated them.

As Yates and Smith exited the building, supporters chanted “Love has won!” Yates said all he wanted to do was hug his parents.

“We were more optimistic today,” Yates said, when asked if the couple had been nervous about their sixth attempt to get a license. They now have 30 days to get married, and he said they had two dates picked out, depending on when guests can attend.

Off to the side, a Davis backer holding a bible preached against homosexuality.

It was the 100th marriage license issued by the clerk’s office this year and the first one since the Supreme Court ruling. Last year, the clerk’s office issued 214 marriage licenses.

Emotions have run high on all sides as Davis and an attorney for one of the four couples who sued the county clerk said they had received death threats. A Kentucky legal trade publication reported the judge had also received a death threat.

Outside the Morehead, Kentucky, courthouse where the clerk’s office is located, there were about 40 demonstrators, far fewer than the 200 or so who showed up on Thursday in Ashland, the site of the federal courthouse where Davis was found in contempt and jailed. Morehead is about 90 miles from the state capital of Frankfort.

Davis’ husband stood outside the courthouse on Friday morning, holding a sign that read, “Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah.” He said his wife was in good spirits after her first night in jail at a county detention center, adding she had no plans to resign and was prepared to remain in jail for as long as she felt necessary.

“We don’t hate these people,” he told reporters. “That’s the furthest thing from our hearts. We don’t hate nobody. We just want to have the same rights that they have.”

Describing himself as an “old country hillbilly” with an 11th grade education, Davis said he knew more about the law than most because he worked in corrections. He said he disagreed with the Supreme Court’s June ruling.

On Thursday, Bunning ordered Davis jailed, saying he did not think a fine would be effective. He also got pledges from five of Davis’ six deputy clerks that they would issue licenses to anyone, including same-sex couples, in her absence. The judge told them they would be ordered to return to the U.S. District Court in Ashland, Kentucky, if they did not.

Some reluctantly agreed, saying they were balancing personal convictions and family responsibilities, and faith. The sixth deputy clerk, Davis’ son Nathan, would not agree to issue licenses, but he was not jailed.

Davis’ stance and whether she should be forced to issue marriage licenses has split Republican presidential candidates.

(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender in Kentucky; Writing by David Bailey and Ben Klayman; Editing by Ken Wills and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Photo: Demonstrators stand on the front steps of the federal building waving a rainbow flag in protest of Rowan County clerk Kim Davis’ arrival to attend a contempt of court hearing for her refusal to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples at the United States District Court in Ashland, Kentucky, September 3, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Tilley

Kentucky Clerk Jailed For Denying Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

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

Obama’s Arctic Adventure Ends With Sinking Village, Fish Spawn

By Roberta Rampton

KOTZEBUE, Alaska (Reuters) — President Barack Obama got a taste of the U.S. Arctic on Wednesday, dropping in to two remote fly-in native villages in a journey the White House hopes will show how climate change is affecting Americans.

Crossing the Arctic Circle, Air Force One flew over Kivalina, pop. 400, a whaling village on a barrier island debating whether to move as melting sea ice raises sea levels.

Obama said Kivalina is a harbinger of hardships other parts of the country could face if global warming goes unchecked.

“I’ve been trying to make the rest of the country more aware of the changing climate — but you’re already living it,” Obama told a crowd jammed into a school gym.

It was the culmination of a three-day adventure in which Obama hiked to a glacier and toured majestic fjords by boat, delighting residents in a vast and sparsely populated state often left off presidential itineraries.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen before: the president, in Kotzebue, my hometown!” said Betty Kingeak, 26, who is a cashier and delivery driver at Little Louie’s restaurant.

Kingeak said she worries climate change could mean her children will not be able to camp, hunt, and fish like she does.

Obama, the first sitting president to cross the Arctic Circle, is pushing to marshal support for an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions.

He also wants to convince Congress to back at least one new heavy ice breaker for the U.S. Coast Guard, a national security priority underscored by a report on Wednesday that Chinese navy ships were in the Bering Sea near Alaska.

‘Uh-Oh’

Earlier on Wednesday, Obama visited Dillingham, a town on Bristol Bay, home to one of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fisheries, where two women gave him a crash course in catching salmon in traditional nets.

“I’ve got to get some gloves so I can handle my fish,” Obama said, donning an orange pair and hoisting a still-flopping silver salmon.

The fish promptly relieved itself on his shoes.

“Uh-oh. What happened there?” he said, laughing as the women explained the fish was spawning.

He tried his hand at Yup’ik native dancing with grade school students before taking his motorcade down the main drag, passing a fishing boat with the hulking head of a recently killed moose.

At the N + N Market, where a large bag of Doritos cost $9.39, Obama talked about the high costs of food in places where almost everything has to be shipped in.

The community was plastered with signs like “Mines and fish don’t co-exist” protesting against the Pebble Mine copper and gold project proposed by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

The Environmental Protection Agency has placed restrictions on the proposed mine, which the company is fighting in court.

“Our view is that if the president is interested in the issue he should try to hear from all perspectives about it, including those closest to Pebble who would like the jobs Pebble may provide,” said Mike Heatwole, a spokesman for Pebble Limited Partnership.

Obama did not address the mine directly, but noted he had taken steps this year to shut off Bristol Bay from oil and gas exploration to protect the fishing industry.

“There are other threats to this environment that we’ve always got to be alert to,” Obama said.

(Additional reporting by Steve Quinn in Juneau, Alaska; Editing by Louise Ireland, Toni Reinhold)

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) observes traditional salmon preserving with fishermen on the shore of the Nushagak River in Dillingham, Alaska, September 2, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst