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Religious Tolerance logo

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage (aka gay
marriage) across the U.S. in its ruling of The Obergefell v. Hodges
case from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee.

Part 56:
2015-September:
County Clerk Davis returns to District Court.
She is jailed for contempt of court. Reactions.
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We use the term "gay marriage."to represent the marriage of two persons of
the same sex. We prefer "Same-sex marriage," a more inclusive term that
includes spouses with a bisexual sexual orientation, but it would make this web
site harder to find because most search engines cannot handle synonyms.
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.
"LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Kentucky map showing Rowan County 2015-SEP-03: Clerk Davis of Rowan County, KY returns to District Court:

Rowan County in Kentucky may have been the only county remaining in any of the U.S. states where qualified same-sex couples were unable to obtain marriage licenses. At least, reading articles in the media would seem to indicate this. However, it is almost certain that there are a few other county clerks scattered across the country who are also refusing to issue marriage licenses. In those areas, same-sex couples probably went to nearby counties where cooperative clerks issued them licenses. The couples didn't file lawsuits, and thus did not attract the attention of the media.

During the previous month, four Kentucky couples -- two opposite sex and two same-sex -- had launched a successful lawsuit in federal District Court. District Judge Bunning subsequently ordered Clerk Kim Davis to resume issuing marriage licenses to all qualified couples, including same-sex couples. She refused.

Her lawyers appealed the ruling to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld the District Court's ruling. Her lawyers then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The High Court refused to accept her appeal. Yet even then, with further options to appeal being impossible, Ms. Davis continued her refusal to issue marriage licenses to all couples, citing, as justification, her deeply held, sincere religious beliefs.

The temporary stay that Judge Bunning had placed on his ruling expired without Clerk Davis complying with the court order. It was clear that she was in contempt of court. That usually results in either a fine or transfer to jail. The plaintiffs in the case asked that Davis be merely fined if she continued to refuse to issue licenses.

On 2015-SEP-03. at a hearing in District Court, she stated that her "conscience will not allow" her to issue licenses to same-sex couples. She told the Judge that:

"God's moral law conflicts with my job duties. You can't be separated from something that's in your heart and in your soul." 1

At the hearing, responding to direct questions from the Judge, five of the six deputy clerks in her office agreed to personally issue licenses in the future to all qualified applicant couples. The only deputy to refuse was Clerk Davis' son, Nathan Davis.

It is obvious that Ms. Davis could have appealed to crowd funding web sites and raise tens of thousands of dollars to pay any fine that the court might have ordered. Perhaps for that reason, on SEP-03, District Judge Bunning sentenced her to jail for contempt of court. He offered to release her at any time if she would simply agree to not interfere with her deputies issuing marriage licenses. She again refused. 2

Police photo of Kim Davis

Police photo of Kim Davis.

The five deputies in Rowan County have since been routinely issuing marriage licenses to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. However, Ms. Davis' lawyers have stated their opinion that such licenses are invalid. Her lawyers consider them worthless, and that any subsequent marriages would be invalid.

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Various reactions to Ms. Davis' imprisonment:

  • Roger Gannam is one of Ms. Davis' lawyers. He said:

    "Today, for the first time in history, an American citizen has been incarcerated for having the belief of conscience that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. And she’s been ordered to stay there until she’s willing to change her mind, until she’s willing to change her conscience about what belief is." 3

  • Webmaster's comment: [Bias alert]:

    I disagree with Gannam's statement. She is free to hold whatever beliefs that she wishes. She is not being jailed for her beliefs, but for her actions in:

    • Refusing to issue licenses as the U.S. Constitution and her oath of office requires her to, and

    • Refusing to follow an order of the District Court, which was subsequently found legitimate by both the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Before taking office, she swore an oath to obey the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. On JUN-26, that court ruled that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that qualified same-sex couples can marry. If she rejects the concept of same-sex marriage, then her honorable response would have been to resign.

  • Senator Ted Cruz from Texas, a Republican who is seeking the Presidency in 2016, eloquently said:

    "Today, judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny." 3

  • Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary said:

    "Every public official in our democracy is subject to the rule of law. No one is above the law. That applies to the president of the United States and that applies to the county clerk of Rowan County, KY, as well." 3

  • On SEPT-05. About 300 demonstrators came to Carter County Detention Center where Davis is being held. They chanted "Thank you Kim" repeatedly. Her husband, Joe, talked to the crowd, saying:

    "She won't bow, I promise you. She sends her love to each and every one of you all. And this is what she said, 'All is well. Tell them to hold their head high because I am'." 4

    Some of the demonstrators held signs with messages like: "Kim Davis for President," ''No to sodomite perversion" and "God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers." 4

Pastor Matthew Trewhella from Wisconsin preached to the assembled crowd, saying in part:

"More [people] fear man, they don't fear God. She said that she was doing this under God's authority. She is 1,000 percent correct. She is echoing what western man has said for over 1,500 years now. And that is that divine law trumps human laws." 4

Since she was elected to the office of Clerk, she cannot simply be fired for refusing to carry out the responsibilities of her job. She may rot in jail until such a time as the Kentucky Legislature impeaches her. However, she can leave jail by merely agreeing not to hinder her deputies who are issuing marriage licenses. She would not even have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples herself.

Many conservative Christian groups are advocating protests and demonstrations in favor of what they consider Clerk Davis fundamental religious freedom to actively discriminate against others for religious reasons.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Kentucky clerk won't accept gay marriage deal, goes to jail," Herald-Zeitung, 2015-SEP-03, at: http://herald-zeitung.com/
  2. Adam Beam, "Kentucky clerks to license marriages as their boss is jailed," MSN News, 2015-SEP-04, at: http://www.msn.com/
  3. Alan Blinder & Tamara Lewin, "Clerk in Kentucky Chooses Jail Over Deal on Same-Sex Marriage," New York Times, 2015-SEP-03, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  4. Claire Galofaro, "Rally to support defiant clerk jailed over marriage licenses," Yahoo! News, 2015-SEP-05. at: http://news.yahoo.com/

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How you may have arrived here:

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-AUG-20
Latest update: 2015-AUG-20
Author: B.A. Robinson
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