Kim Davis, Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court, held in contempt and ordered into custody

Kim Davis is the Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court, an elected position. Despite taking an oath to enforce the Constitution and the laws of the United States and the State of Kentucky, which requires her to issue marriage licenses, she has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She claims that she would violate her religious beliefs, if she were to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. To avoid the appearance of discriminating against same-sex couples, she decided to refuse to issue any marriage licenses. No one has been fooled by this strategy.

In June the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) held that laws which prohibit same-sex marriage violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Obergefell v. Hodges, (June 16, 2015). Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy said,

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

Ms. Davis’s argument is ridiculous because she is claiming that, even though she is an elected public official, her First Amendment right to freedom of religion means she can discriminate against same-sex couples on religious grounds by refusing to issue them a marriage license despite her legal duty to so under Kentucky law and their Fourteenth Amendment right to get married under Obergefell. If public officials are free to discriminate against people on religious grounds, the Fourteenth Amendment would cease to have any meaning.

Moreover, she is out of options. She already lost this argument back in June after the SCOTUS decided Obergefell and a same-sex couple sued her in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky seeking an order directing her to issue them a marriage license. Judge David Bunning rejected her religious-freedom argument and ordered her to issue the license. She appealed to the Sixth Circuit and lost. Her application for review by the SCOTUS was rejected.

Now, she’s back in front of  Judge Bunning, who has ordered her to show cause why he shouldn’t hold her in contempt of court for continuing to refuse to obey his order to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples.

I do not believe there is any question that he is going to hold her in contempt. She is in contempt. The question is what is he going to do about it.

He can fine her a certain sum of money per day until she complies with his order or he could send her to jail where she would remain until she agrees to issue the licenses. Alternatively, she could resign.

I would send her to jail until she agrees to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or she agrees to resign. I would not fine her because the fine probably would be paid by a right-wing GoFundMe internet site.

Meanwhile, at the hearing today, according to Matt Iglesias at Think Progress, her deputy clerks are willing to issue the licenses, but they are afraid to do so. As the County Attorney Cecil Watkins told Kentucky Court Trial Review, “Davis, does not represent” the county or its values, and he added that he told Davis that he “will not and cannot support” her in her refusal to obey the Constitution.

In an editorial note accompanying its reporting, the Trial Court Review paints a grim picture of life in the Rowan County courthouse after Davis began a symbol of anti-gay defiance. “The takeaways from the Watkins interview are clear. Davis is acting alone in her zealous mission. Her conduct has terrorized not just her staff but everyone that works in the courthouse. And all for a foolish mission aided by out of state charlatan lawyers trying to raise money for their ‘religious liberty’ mission.”

Former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, a candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 2016, announced yesterday that he supports Davis. He said the Bible is supreme to the SCOTUS,

Judge Bunning just held her in contempt and ordered her into federal custody where she will remain until she agrees to issue the marriage licenses. He rejected the idea of a fine in part because others would pay it for her.

In effect, she has the keys to the jailhouse door.




14 Responses to Kim Davis, Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court, held in contempt and ordered into custody

  1. Thank goodness we have separation between church and state, or we’d now be subject to the Christian Taliban, it appears. The marriage license is a civil construct meant to legalize unions for legal purposes, and isn’t about any form of spiritual sanctity. And her employer is government, not a spiritual enterprise with any authority to dictate who gets to hook up and who doesn’t.

    It’s my understanding that Ms. Davis’s mother held her post for 40 years and it’s becoming clear that she isn’t thinking about serving the public – behind her religious beliefs lurks the thinking she “owns” the job and can dictate how it’s done. Too bad, Ms. Davis. You’ll probably be fired.

    • And Kim Davis’s son, btw, is employed as a deputy clerk which puts him in the pipeline to eventually succeed her. The good news is the position is elected, so there’s a possibility that this fiasco will lead to someone defeating her in the next election.

      However, one should never underestimate the power of nepotism in Kentucky.

  2. Malisha says:

    There are no issues here. This clerk has decided SHE gets to design her job the way SHE wants it. The fact that she is an elected official does not change the fact that her responsibilities include parts of the job she likes and parts she doesn’t like. Her position is simple buffoonery. She should have resigned long before she made the county spend money on incarcerating her foolish behind. She’s REALLY someone I don’t want to pay to feed in a jail cell. I’ll trade you all the people on death row (let’s agree to feed them until they die of natural causes on LWOPs) for her; fire her and let her out.

    • gblock says:

      The trouble is, since she’s an elected official, who has the right to fire her, and what would be involved in doing so? The voters may have the right to try to hold a recall election, but it is not certain that they would succeed.

      • Impeachment by the state senate, but the legislature only meets every other year and that’s next year, not this year. Governor Beshear (D) could call a special session this year, but he refused to do so because the state can’t afford it.

        I don’t believe a recall election is an option under state law.

  3. Disappointed says:

    Couple of things 1 if straight ppl don’t like gays stop making them. No one chooses to be gay. Seriously look at the hate they are getting. 2 did the clerk swear on bible to uphold constitution or did she swear on constitution to uphold bible? Do your JOB or quit. Love is love. Who are we to judge? This imo is why less ppl are not following a religion. It appears to me certain ppl think God hates his children. Ultimately if every child is a gift from God aren’t they gay children a gift also?

    • gblock says:

      It doesn’t matter what the clerk did or didn’t swear. In this country, public officials are required to uphold the Constitution.

  4. ed nelson says:

    this is one time when I really didn’t read your post too intentley! Because to me this gay marriage issue is a great big… wedge issue, or red Herring, and a nutty thing for the most part:

    However I would be totally in favor of civil bonds of any sexes such as would enable any persons to have the things which man and wife have, like visiting rights, inheritance rights, and all the sfuff marriage entails, and,

    whether there is some sexual intercourse involved, that shouln’t be part of the equation…. who really wants to have that imagery unless it”s for tittilation and stuff!

    Sad thing is, though, the Gays, are stupid to give up what was the main advantage that they always did have…. namely, not being tied up and bonded, but they had freedom, and

    f you don’t have any scrupples that make it wrong to be gay, and if it doesn’t fly in the face of your traditions… I guess, who cares, we don’t need more f’n babies, though I do like them, I don’t see any reason why it wouln’t be better if, humans might slow down on the reproduction to save the planet.

    As things are all changing around, someday gay will be completely accepted as normal… You know everybody has a little gay in them, everybody is both male and female, but you heard it here!

    No I still am pretty straight, but don’t tempt me! hjaha

    • gblock says:

      Ed, I disagree with you on a couple of things. First, civil unions that are not called marriage are often not as equal to marriage as they are claimed to be. For instance, if one partner is very ill in the hospital, the other partner may not be permitted to see them or make decisions for them, because they may not be considered “next of kind”.

      Second, it is both mentally and physically healthier for people to involve themselves in stable relationships. The existence of marriage as an option for them increases the expectation for them of forming such relationships.

  5. Diamonique says:

    Her staff is willing to issue the licenses, but they’re afraid? Afraid of what?

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