A judge in the US state of Kentucky jailed an official on Thursday for repeatedly refusing to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.
Country clerk Kim Davies, 49, says her Christian faith tells her that: “Marriage is a union between one man and one woman”.
But she has refused to issue any marriage licences since the US Supreme Court ruled in June that same-sex unions are legal.
After being jailed, she was given a second chance – that of simply not interfering when her deputies issue the licences but Davies refused to give them the authority to do so and remains behind bars.
Thursday’s proceedings were the culmination of months of legal wrangling and refusals to abide by a judge’s order to do her job.
It has drawn national attention from those both for and against gay marriage rights and protesters from each side gathered outside the courthouse.
Some demonstrators chanted slogans like “God is great” or “Do your job,” and many held signs or flags like the rainbow flag that is a symbol for gay rights.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Thursday said it was “appropriate” for a federal judge to resolve the matter.
“No public official is above the rule of law, certainly not the president of the United States, but neither is the Rowan county clerk,” he said.
But Davis’ jailing drew instant criticism from her supporters with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee tweeting his outrage.
“Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubts about the criminalisation of Christianity in this country,” was one of his comments.