US & Canada

'Holdout' Kentucky county issues gay marriage licences

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis is shown in this booking photo provided by the Carter County Detention Centre in Grayson, Kentucky on 3 September 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption County clerk Kim Davis said issuing gay marriage licences was against her Christian faith

A county in the US state of Kentucky has started issuing marriage licences to gay couples after the county clerk was jailed for refusing to do so.

Kim Davis, an elected official in Rowan County, has said the Supreme Court's ruling conflicts with her beliefs as a born-again Christian.

Some of her deputies began processing the licences on Friday, providing one to a gay couple previously denied one.

The US Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal in June.

On Thursday, Ms Davis denied herself the opportunity to be released from jail after refusing a judge's request to allow her clerks to issue licences. US District Judge David Bunning said she could remain in prison for up to a week.

Five deputy clerks later told the judge they would comply with the court order and started issuing marriage licences on Friday morning. But Ms Davis's son, who is a sixth deputy clerk, refused.

'Love has won'

The first gay couple to walk out of the Kentucky county office with a marriage licence was William Smith Jr and James Yates - it was their sixth attempt to obtain one.

Dozens of supporters of same-sex marriage chanted "love has won" as they exited the building.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Supporters and opponents of gay marriage turned up for court ruling on Thursday which sent Ms Davis to jail

But there is dispute over whether the licences will be considered valid as they did not bear the elected clerk's signature.

Lawyers for the couples believe they are, but Ms Davis's lawyer said they were "not worth the paper they are written on''.

Support rally planned

Meanwhile, Ms Davis's husband, who was outside the courthouse on Friday, said his wife would not resign and will remain in jail "for as long as it takes".

Joe Davis said his wife was in good spirits after her first night in jail.

She stopped issuing marriage licences to all couples in June rather than comply with the US Supreme Court's ruling legalising gay marriage nationwide, and turned couples away repeatedly.

The US Supreme Court on Monday rejected the argument that her faith prevented her from carrying out her duty.

She can only be removed from her position if the Kentucky legislature impeaches her, because she is an elected official.

Various 2016 Republican presidential candidates, like Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio, have come out in support of Ms Davis' decision.

Mr Huckabee said on Friday he planned to meet the jailed county clerk and stage a rally in support of her.

Others like Carly Fiorina, Senator Lindsey Graham and Ohio Governor John Kasich have said she must do her job and comply with the law.