Kentucky clerk found in contempt of court, jailed for refusal to issue marriage licenses
A federal judge found Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis in contempt of court and remanded her to custody for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
In a federal courthouse in Ashland, Kentucky, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union are set to argue that the Rowan County clerk should be fined.
Davis, the attorneys argued in a motion filed Monday, “continues to collect compensation from the Commonwealth for duties she fails to perform.”
They say they don’t want her to be jailed as punishment, but they’re asking U.S. District Judge David Bunning to find Davis in contempt of court and “impose financial penalties sufficiently serious and increasingly onerous” to make her comply.
The clerk, an apostolic Christian who says she has a sincere religious objection to same-sex marriage, has refused to issue any marriage licenses since the June U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
In court documents filed Wednesday, her attorneys argue that she shouldn’t be held in contempt. Instead, they argue that there are alternatives that would allow couples to get marriage licenses in Rowan County without going against Davis’ religious beliefs.
Among the options, they say, would be allowing other officials to issue marriage licenses in the county, distributing marriage licenses at the state level or changing marriage license forms to remove Davis’ name.
Davis is expected to be at Thursday’s hearing, along with her deputy clerks.
Lawyers: Issuing licenses ‘violates her conscience’
Two other county clerks in Kentucky are also refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, according to a statement on Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s website.
Bunning ordered Davis to resume the issuing of marriage licenses on Aug. 12. Monday night, the Supreme Court denied an emergency application from Davis, who asked that Bunning’s order be put on hold pending appeal.
In a statement released Tuesday, Davis, a Democrat, said she has received death threats but intends to continue to serve as the county clerk — a position she was elected to fill in November.
In court papers, lawyers for Davis argue that she is unable to comply with the court orders because issuing same-sex marriage licenses “irreparably and irreversibly violates her conscience.”
Finding her in contempt of court, they argued in the motion filed Wednesday, also would “substantially burden Davis’ religious exercise.”
But some scoff at the clerk, suggesting she’s a hypocrite because she’s been divorced three times.
Davis said she’s a different person now, since becoming a Christian four years ago.
“I am not perfect,” she said in the statement. “No one is. But I am forgiven.”
The ACLU attorneys, who represent two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples who want to get married in Rowan County, argue that Davis has no legal basis to avoid performing her duties as a government clerk.
And a federal prosecutor said it’s time for Davis and her county to comply.
“Government officials are free to disagree with the law, but not disobey it,” U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey said in a written statement. “The County Clerk has presented her position through the federal court system, all of the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is time for the Clerk and the County to follow the law.”
At protests, tensions flare
Vocal groups on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate protested this week outside the clerk’s office.
“I don’t want to see anyone be arrested, I don’t want to see anyone be punished that hard, but she’s got a choice,” same-sex marriage supporter Darbi Hardin told CNN affiliate WKYT.
On the other side of the sidewalk, Boone McQueary said he supported Davis and opposed same-sex marriage.
“It’s the lifestyle we hate,” he said, “and they try to push it on us.”