MOREHEAD, Ky. (AP) — Invoking "God's authority," a county clerk denied marriage licenses to gay couples again Tuesday in direct defiance of the federal courts and vowed not to resign, even under the pressure of steep fines or jail.

"It is not a light issue for me," Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis said later through her lawyers. "It is a heaven or hell decision."

April Miller and Karen Roberts, tailed by television cameras and rival activists, were there when the doors opened Tuesday morning, hours after the Supreme Court rejected the clerk's last-ditch request for a delay.

They hoped Davis would accept that her fight was lost and issue the licenses, ending the months-long controversy that has divided Rowan County.

Instead, Davis once again turned them away. On their way out, Miller and Roberts passed David Ermold and David Moore, 17 years a couple. "Denied again," Roberts whispered in Moore's ear.

Ermold said he almost wept. They demanded to talk to Davis, who emerged briefly on the other side of the counter.

"We're not leaving until we have a license," Ermold told her.

"Then you're going to have a long day," Davis replied.

Davis, an Apostolic Christian, stopped issuing all marriage licenses in June rather than comply with the Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage nationwide.

Gay and straight couples sued, saying she should fulfill her duties as an elected official despite her personal religious faith.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered her to issue the licenses, an appeals court affirmed that order and the Supreme Court on Monday refused to intervene, leaving her no legal option to refuse.

And yet, she did. Davis knows she faces stiff fines or even jail if the judge finds her in contempt, her lawyer said.

But the couples' lawyers asked that she not be sent to jail, and instead be fined.

Bunning ordered Davis and her six deputy clerks to appear before him Thursday morning at the federal courthouse in Ashland.

Davis said she never imagined this day would come.

"I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God's word," her statement said.

As an elected official, she can be removed only if the Legislature impeaches her, which is unlikely.

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