By Steve Bittenbender
MOREHEAD, Kentucky (Reuters) -- A county clerk in Kentucky sought an emergency injunction on Wednesday to temporarily block a federal court order requiring her to issue same-sex marriage licenses as she prepares to go to court on Thursday to face contempt charges.
Kim Davis, the elected Rowan County clerk, says her religious beliefs as an Apostolic Christian stop her from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples as ordered by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June made gay marriage legal across the United States and the top court declined to hear Davis' case.
"An injunction pending appeal will halt the irreversible implications on Davis' conscience while the Sixth Court reviews Davis' appeal of her individual claims and the multiple less restrictive alternatives available that do not substantially burden Davis, and her religious beliefs about marriage that can be measured in millennia," the filing said.
Despite claims by Davis's legal counsel that an executive order allowing her to not sign the licenses would address the issue, a spokesman for Democratic Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear reaffirmed on Wednesday that the governor does not have authority over Davis' office.
Davis, who has refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples, gay or straight, is being represented by Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based Christian religious advocacy organization.
Four couples filed a federal lawsuit against Davis in July challenging her office's policy of not issuing licenses. On Tuesday the couples filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge David Bunning to hold her in contempt of court, seeking fines but no jail time.
Liberty is providing their legal services at no cost to Davis, but have not discussed payment on any potential fines, the group's founder and Chairman Mathew Staver told Reuters in an email.
"However, we do know that there is a lot of support for Kim Davis in the event that she is fined. And we believe that there would be sufficient number of people that would help cover some or all of it," Staver said.
Davis is due to appear in front of Bunning on Thursday in Ashland, Kentucky.
Liberty, in a separate statement, said it sought the injunction on a temporary basis while it appeals an earlier decision denying her an exemption from the governor over issuing licenses.
"Judge Bunning entered an order effectively denying that motion without giving Kim Davis any opportunity for a hearing," Liberty's statement said.
(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Writing by Daniel Bases; Editing by Peter Cooney and Lisa Shumaker)