Thursday, September 03, 2015

Recalcitrant Kentucky County Clerk Jailed For Contempt; Deputies Will Issue Marriage Licenses

In Ashland, Kentucky today, federal district judge David Bunning ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to be remanded to the custody of U.S. Marshals after she told the court that her religious objections to same-sex marriage prevent her from complying with the court's preliminary injunction ordering her to end her office's refusal to issue marriage licences. (See prior posting.)  According to the ACLU, the court also granted its motion and clarified that the preliminary injunction requires Davis' office to issue marriage licenses to all eligible couples in Rowan County, and not just to the four couples named as plaintiffs in the case.  [UPDATE: Full text of order.] The Lexington Herald-Leader reports on what happened then:
After U.S. marshals took Davis into custody, where she is expected to remain until she agrees to comply with Bunning's order, the judge ordered her six deputy clerks to stand and tell him if they would comply with his order to issue marriage licenses, at the risk of facing their own contempt penalties.
All but one of the deputies — Nathan Davis, Kim Davis' son — said they would obey the judge, some more reluctantly than others..... Bunning said he would not hold the younger Davis in contempt since the rest of his colleagues are willing to obey the law.
So on Friday, the Rowan County clerk's office is set to open without its clerk, for the first time recognizing the Supreme Court's landmark gay marriage decision....
Later in the day, after Bunning established that five of Davis' deputy clerks were willing to issue marriage licenses, Davis' lawyers asked the judge to reconsider sending her to jail. If the people of Rowan County can get a marriage license from the clerk's office, even if it's over Davis' objections, then surely the judge's order is satisfied, the lawyers said.
But Davis scotched that effort by informing Bunning, from a courthouse holding cell, that she would not agree to let her deputies obey the judge's order if she is released. With a shrug, Bunning said Davis will remain incarcerated for at least a week, until he can review how her office operates in her absence. She was taken to the Carter County jail but can free herself by agreeing to comply with his order, Bunning said.
Davis' lawyers released a statement today, saying in part:
All [Davis] asks is to be true to God and her conscience. And the tragedy is that there are simple ways to accommodate her convictions. Just remove her name from the marriage licenses. That’s all she has asked from the beginning. Today’s events will escalate this debate to a new level. This is not the kind of America the Founders envisioned or that most Americans want.”
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, there remains a question of whether licenses issued by deputy clerks are legally valid under Kentucky law if issued without Davis' consent. Judge Bunning said that couples would need to assess that risk on their own.