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Kentucky clerk in court over marriage license refusal
01:24 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Same-sex marriage was supposed to be a settled matter in America – it’s a constitutional right – but the issue returned to headlines this month after a Kentucky county clerk refused to license those nuptials.

Here are eight things to know about Kim Davis, who spent five days in jail for refusing to abide by this summer’s historic ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage. The same judge who jailed her for contempt ordered her release on Tuesday.

Who is Kim Davis?

Kim Davis is the elected clerk of Rowan County in northeastern Kentucky, along the edge of the Appalachian Mountains.

She is a Democrat who was first elected last fall with 3,909 votes, or 53% of the vote. The county has 23,655 residents.

Though on the job only since January, Davis is hardly new to its demands.

Her mother was the county clerk for 37 years, and Davis worked 27 years for her.

Davis, 49, has spent her entire life in Rowan County, where 96% of people are white and more than one-fourth live in poverty.

Why was she jailed?

Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, defying the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that legalized same-sex marriage.

“It is not a light issue for me. It is a heaven or hell decision,” Davis said in a statement, citing her religion.

Davis doesn’t want her name and title affixed to a same-sex marriage license “that goes down in the annals of Kentucky history,” said her attorney, Mat Staver.

On September 3, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning declared Davis in contempt of court for refusing to issue the licenses and not allowing her six deputy clerks to issue them for her. He said Davis would remain behind bars until she complied.

Five of her deputies then agreed to issue marriage licenses in her absence, and the Rowan County Clerk’s Office began doing so the following day.

The sixth deputy is Davis’ son, Nathan, who didn’t give an answer when he appeared in court to discuss whether he would issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Davis’ defense failed to sway the judge.

“You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul,” she told the judge, according to CNN affiliate WKYT-TV.

Why was she released?

Judge Bunning said in his order Tuesday that he is satisfied the office is issuing marriage licenses to “legally eligible couples,” and ordered that counsel for the five deputy clerks who agreed to issue such licenses to submit a status report every 14 days to ensure that compliance continues.

Bunning ordered Davis not to interfere “directly or indirectly” with the efforts of her deputies in those duties, and that “appropriate sanctions will be considered” if she fails to comply with the order.

What is her faith?

Davis experienced a religious conversion 4½ years ago and became an Apostolic Christian, a faith which has a strict moral code. She attends Solid Rock Apostolic Church in Morehead, the county seat.

“She said she played in the devil’s playground for a long time, and her life has been radically changed since then,” attorney Staver said.

She has been married four times, including twice to the same man.

“I am not perfect. No one is,” Davis said in a statement. “But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to him and to the word of God.”

Will she resign or step down? Can she be fired?

The governor has no legal authority to remove Davis and cannot use an executive order to relieve her of statutory duties, he said.

During Davis’ time in jail, her attorney said the county clerk has no intention of resigning.

“She will remain the clerk of Rowan County as long as the people want her,” Staver said.