The Rowan County Clerk’s resistance to the erosion of religious liberty is reenergizing the broader movement.
After Obergefell came down, Kim Davis wasn’t the only clerk who objected to same-sex marriage. She was just the only one who refused either to perform her job, or quit it. In Texas, Rusk County Clerk Joyce Lewis-Kugle stepped down, as did Live Oak County Clerk Karen Irving. Cleburn County, Arkansas, lost its clerk, as did Grenada County, Mississippi; the clerks office in Decatur County, Tennessee, lost its entire staff.
As it became clear that the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, wasn’t going to back down, she was roundly mocked on political left. Religious-freedom cases will emerge in light of same-sex marriage, legal experts said, but this isn’t the winner; after all, clerks are government employees, tasked with executing laws.
Welp, Kim Davis and her lawyers just tussled with a federal judge, and they pretty much whooped him.
To review what’s happened so far: Shortly after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June, Kim Davis instructed the employees in her office to stop issuing marriage licenses, whether for gay or straight couples. She maintained that signing her name to same-sex marriage licenses would be a violation of her religious beliefs, and since she’s the Rowan County clerk, this would include any license from the office that carried her name. In the middle of August, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to start issuing marriage licenses again. Davis refused to comply. Last Thursday, Bunning held her in contempt of court, and Davis spent Labor Day weekend in jail.
On Tuesday, though, Bunning reversed course.
After remanding Defendant Davis to the custody of the U.S. Marshal, five of her six deputy clerks stated under oath that they would comply with the Court’s Order and issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.
On September 8, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a Status Report at the Court’s behest. According to the Report, Plaintiffs have obtained marriage licenses from the Rowan County Clerk’s Office.1 The Court is therefore satisfied that the Rowan County Clerk’s Office is fulfilling its obligation to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples, consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Obergefell and this Court’s August 12, 2015 Order. For these reasons, the Court’s prior contempt sanction against Defendant Davis is hereby lifted.
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