Kentucky Clerk Refuses to Grant Marriage Licenses to Gay Couples; Court Gives her Time to Appeal
Two gay couples in Morehead, Kentucky are getting everything they want from a federal judge. When county clerk Kim Davis explained that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was against her religious beliefs, Governor Steve Bashear told her to do it anyway or quit her job. She was forced to take the issue to court.
Federal Judge David Bunning ruled that despite her religious beliefs, Davis must comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling in June (legalizing gay marriage) and issue the licenses. However, he decided to delay the ruling to give Davis a chance to appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“If the Court decided to delay enforcement of its Order while Davis pursues an unpromising appeal, it would essentially give Plaintiffs a favorable legal ruling with no teeth and prolong the likely violation of their constitutional rights,” wrote Bunning.
Dan Canon, attorney representing the same-sex couples, argues that Davis must immediately comply with Bunning’s ruling. Opposing attorney Mat Staver argues that Bunning’s convoluted decision gives her more time. What this means is that same-sex couples can not obtain a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky for the time being.
“This is not something I decided because of this decision that came down,” said Davis last month in federal court. “It was thought-out and, you know, I sought God on it.”
What the Court of Appeals must decide is whether or not Bunning’s ruling infringes on Davis’ religious beliefs. According to Bunning, she is “free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do. However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk.”
Kim’s lawyers have compared her to a nurse being ordered to perform abortions or a state official asked to execute a prisoner.
Among the many county clerks who have had misgivings about issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Davis is the first to be challenged in a federal court. She faces fines and possible prison time if she continues refusing licenses, but has no plans to back down.
Davis does not want to give up her $80,000 a year position and hopes that a law will come to pass giving county clerks the option to say no if asked to issue a license that violates his or her religious beliefs.
“If I say that I authorize that, I’m saying I agree with it, and I can’t,” said Davis. She told the court that her beliefs about right and wrong are shaped by “God’s holy word” and that she goes to church “every time the doors are open.” Davis leads a Bible study at the Rowan county jail one day a week.