Kentucky Clerk Defies Supreme Court, Refuses to Issue Marriage Licenses

UPDATE: Kim Davis has now been jailed for contempt of court.

A county clerk in Kentucky is being summoned to court this morning where a federal judge could hold her in contempt for refusing to issue a marriage licenses to gay couples.

via  Timothy D. Easley for AP
via Timothy D. Easley for AP

Claiming she is acting “under God’s authority,” Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis continues to defy a Federal District Court ruling and most recently, a Supreme Court order, ordering her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis, a devout Apostolic Christian, argues doing so violates religious beliefs.

Early Tuesday morning, gay marriage advocates and opponents alike, with journalists in tow, flooded Davis’ Rowan County Courthouse office to protest her noncompliance with federal law. After a brief but tense standoff with David Moore, who vowed to remain in her office until Davis issued him and his partner David Ermold a license to marry, Davis responded, “Then you’re going to have a long day.” Davis then retired to her office and closed the blinds.

Davis’ defiance marks the first official challenge to this summer’s historic Supreme Court decision which grants legal recognition and protection for gay couples seeking martial unions. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June, Davis has turned away several same-sex couples seeking licenses, sparking homosexual and heterosexual couples countywide to file suit. In August, Federal District Court Judge David L. Bunning ordered Davis to resume issuing licenses. In response, Davis and her attorney, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend Bunning’s order, insisting her religious convictions “be accomodated.” The Supreme Court denied their request on Monday.

Davis may suffer severe consequences as a result of her actions Tuesday. If found in contempt of court at a District Court hearing scheduled Today in Ashland, Davis could face significant fines and up to 1 year in prison.

“She has absolutely no legal ground to stand on,” says Columbia University law professor and director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project Katherine Franke. “Kim Davis has all sorts of religious liberty rights secured under the First Amendment and under other laws. But they are not at stake in this case. All she’s asked to do with couple that come before her is certify that they’ve met the state requirements for marriage. So her religious opposition to same-sex marriage is absolutely irrelevant in this context.”

UPDATE: Kim Davis was ordered jailed for contempt of court after a hearing before Judge David L. Bunning of Federal District Court. Judge Bunning called Davis’ reasoning for refusing to do her job “simply insufficient.”

“The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order,” Bunning said. “If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.”

Media Resources: NY Times 9/1/15; 9/3/15; CNN 9/2/15; Feminist Newswire 6/26/15; NPR 9/1/15;

Support eh ERA banner