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Kentucky couples sue clerk who won't issue gay marriage licenses

Four Kentucky couples have filed a suit against a clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses after the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages are legal. 

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A woman waves a rainbow and American flag together during a rally celebrating the Supreme Court decision on Friday, June 26, 2015, in Bowling Green, Ky. On July 2, four Kentucky couples filed a suit against a Louisville clerk who has refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Austin Anthony/Daily News via AP/File

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Four Kentucky couples are suing a clerk who is refusing to issue gay-marriage licenses — or any marriage licenses at all — following the U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision that same-sex couples have a legal right to marry.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed a federal lawsuit against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis on Thursday afternoon on behalf of two homosexual and two heterosexual couples, all of whom were turned away when they tried to get marriage licenses from Davis' office this week.

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Davis had told The Associated Press that her Christian beliefs prevented her from complying with the Supreme Court decision, so she decided to issue no more marriage licenses to any couple, gay or straight. She is among a handful of judges and clerks across the South who have defied the high court's order, maintaining that the right to "religious freedom" protects them from having to comply.

Hours after the Supreme Court's ruling last Friday, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear ordered all clerks to fall in line. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway followed up with a warning that failing to do so might open them up to civil liability.

Officials have also warned that the defiant clerks could be risking criminal charges. Warren County Attorney Ann Milliken, president of the Kentucky County Attorneys Association, said clerks could be charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Some Kentucky clerks who at first resisted issuing same-sex marriage licenses changed course this week and agreed to sign them. But a few, Davis included, stood firm, despite the dozens of protesters outside her office in Morehead earlier this week.