MOREHEAD, Ky. (AP) — Clerk Kim Davis returned to work Monday for the first time since being jailed for disobeying a federal judge and said she was faced with a "seemingly impossible choice" between following her conscience and losing her freedom over denying marriage licenses to gay couples.
With her voice shaking, she said she decided not to interfere with the marriage licenses, but declared they would not be authorized by her and she questioned their validity.
In her first day back in the office after a five-day stint in jail, Davis said she was torn between obeying God and a directive from the judge that "forces me to disobey God." Davis, an Apostolic Christian, believes gay marriage is a sin.
"I'm here before you this morning with a seemingly impossible choice that I do not wish upon any of my fellow Americans: my conscience or my freedom," Davis read from a hand-written statement outside the courthouse where she works.
Davis became a hero to many conservative Christians when she stopped issuing the licenses after the Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage. Her profile reached a fever pitch when she was jailed, as protesters, presidential candidates and news crews from across the county descended on the small town of Morehead.
On Monday, she was again surrounded by throngs of media and said licenses handed out from her office would be done "pursuant to a federal court order."
"I don't want to have this conflict. I don't want to be in the spotlight. And I certainly don't want to be a whipping post," Davis said. "I am no hero. I'm just a person that's been transformed by the grace of God, who wants to work, be with my family. I just want to serve my neighbors quietly without violating my conscience."
U.S. District Judge David Bunning held her in contempt and ordered her to jail when she continued to refuse to issue the licenses. In her absence, her deputies issued at least seven licenses to gay couples and altered the forms to exclude Davis' name.
The deputy clerk who handed them out, Brian Mason, said Monday that will continue to hand out the licenses despite his boss's objections.
Mason now sits behind a sign that reads "marriage license deputy." He remained calm, scrolling on his computer and chewing gum, despite the surreal scene unfolding before him. Dozens of television cameras crowded around his counter, with some reporters climbing step ladders to get a better shot of him sitting at his desk, waiting for a couple to arrive to get a marriage license.
"I love my deputy clerks and I hate that they have been caught in the middle of any of this," Davis said. "If any of them feel that they must issue an authorized license to avoid being thrown in jail, I understand their tough choice and I will take no action against them."
The governor, the attorney general and the county attorney have said the licenses are valid. Davis and her attorneys claim otherwise.
On Friday, Davis' attorneys filed an appeal seeking another delay in issuing licenses.
In their motion to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, her attorneys argued that all the same-sex couples who sued Davis for a license received one from her deputies while she was in jail. Therefore, they said, her office should not be required to issue them to any more couples once she returns to work.
Bunning wrote that his mandate to issue licenses applied to all couples, not only those who filed suit. But Davis' lawyers allege that order was issued improperly, and again have asked for a delay.