Anti-Marriage Equality Clerk Kim Davis Taken Into Custody, Jailed

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Anti-Marriage Equality Clerk Kim Davis Taken Into Custody, Jailed

Imani Gandy

The contempt order comes on the heels of Davis’ continued refusal to comply with a district court order blocking her from implementing her “no marriage licenses” policy.

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who has refused to issue marriage licenses to anyone in Rowan County in an effort to deny same-sex couples their constitutional right to marry, was found in contempt of court this morning and jailed.

The contempt order comes on the heels of Davis’ continued refusal to comply with a district court order blocking her from implementing her “no marriage licenses” policy. Davis refused to issue marriage licenses in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s June 27 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which granted same-sex couples the constitutional right to marry.

By refusing to issue marriage licenses, Davis believed she could avoid accusations that she was discriminating against same-sex couples.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court against Davis on behalf of a group of plaintiffs—two same-sex and two opposite-sex couples—arguing that Davis’ policy interfered with the plaintiffs’ right to marry because it prevents them from obtaining a license in their home county. The district court agreed with the plaintiffs and rejected Davis’ claims that requiring her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was a violation of her right to religious freedom under Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and her right to free speech under the First Amendment.

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In the wake of the district court order, Davis petitioned both the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court, asking those appellate courts to protect her from having to issue marriage licenses in Rowan County until the Sixth Circuit had the opportunity to issue a ruling on her constitutional claims.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals bluntly denied her request, ruling that “[i]n light of the binding holding of Obergefell, it cannot be defensibly argued that the holder of the Rowan County Clerk’s office, apart from who personally occupies that office, may decline to act in conformity with the United States Constitution.”

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled against her, leaving in effect the district court’s order that she give up her “no marriage licenses” policy.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday morning, when a group of same-sex couples, including two of the plaintiffs to the lawsuit, April Miller and Karen Roberts, demanded that Davis issue marriage licenses to them, Davis refused, citing “God’s authority.”

Davis, an apostolic Christian who opposes same-sex marriage as a matter of faith, claims that she has worked at the Rowan County clerk’s office for nearly 30 years and that she swore an oath to support the constitutions and laws of the United States and Kentucky, which she understood to mean that she would not act in contradiction to the moral law of God.

She maintains that she should not be required to resign her position despite Kentucky Gov. Beshear’s (D) directive stating that county clerks opposed to the same-sex marriage ruling could either fulfill their duties as prescribed by law or resign and let someone else step in and fulfill those duties.

Her refusal to comply with the court order or step down from her position prompted the ACLU to file a motion on behalf of Miller, Roberts, and the other plaintiffs, asking district court judge David L. Bunning to hold Davis in contempt of court and to impose financial penalties “sufficiently serious and increasingly onerous to compel Davis’s immediate compliance without further delay.”

In a response filed on Wednesday morning, Davis asked Bunning not to hold her in contempt. Davis claimed that she is “presently unable” to comply with the order requiring her to issue same-sex marriage licenses, citing law which permits a person to defend against a charge of contempt by showing that compliance with a coercive order is “factually impossible.”

Davis further argued that her “undisputed honest conviction” and “sincerely-held religious beliefs” make it impossible for her to authorize same-sex marriage licenses “because it irreparably and irreversibly violates her conscience by directing her to authorize and issue SSM licenses bearing her name and approval.” She stated that holding her in contempt would violate her rights to religious freedom and due process.

Despite Davis’ plea and although the ACLU did not seek jail time, Bunning found her in contempt of court and ordered her to be jailed on Thursday.

Proceedings regarding Rowan County Deputy clerks will continue this afternoon, according to a statement from ACLU of Kentucky.

The ACLU is expected to hold a press conference at the conclusion of Thursday’s court proceedings.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article did not note Davis was jailed after she refused to comply with the judge’s compromise.