A Kentucky county clerk was found in contempt of court Thursday for her refusal to issue marriage licenses in wake of the Supreme Court decision to allow gays to wed.
U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning placed Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in the custody of U.S. marshals until she complies, saying fines were not enough to force her to comply with his previous order to provide the paperwork to all couples and allowing her to defy the order would create a “ripple effect.”
“Her good-faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” Bunning said. “Oaths mean things.”
Davis, who was tearful at times, testified that she could not obey the order because God’s law trumps the court.
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Bunning warned other clerks — at least two other counties in Kentucky also shuttered their marriage-license operations for all couples — that his order applied to them, too. He gave Davis’ deputy clerks time to meet with public defenders and said he would continue the hearing later this afternoon; they, too, could risk jail if they don’t comply.
As word of Davis’ arrest became known in the crowd that numbered more than 100 protesters outside the courthouse, cheers and chants erupted. One minister called the ruling unjust, saying religious freedom had been trampled on.
Retired steelworker Charles Ramey stands in support of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis outside the federal courthouse Sept. 3, 2015, in Ashland, Ky. (Photo: Chris Kenning, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal)
Demonstrators lined the street, waving signs either with religious messages or calls for marriage equality. Before the hearing began, one man stood in the crowd, shouting over a microphone.
“If we want to live like Sodom and Gomorrah, God will punish us like Sodom and Gomorrah,” he said. In Genesis 19:23-26 God rained burning sulfur on the land of the two cities destroying all who lived there because of their sins, which included sodomy.
Lawyers inside the courtroom with the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, which is representing Davis, argued that she met a legal test for protection under federal law because her convictions created a “factual inability” to issue licenses to same-sex couples.
But lawyers for the couples repeatedly pressed Davis to admit that her policy is the result of a personal choice.
Bunning agreed and said fines for Davis, who makes $80,000 a year, would not be enough to ensure that she would follow his orders. He also raised concerns that supporters, whom she said are raising money for her, would pay any fine he levied against her, hampering its force.
“I don’t do this lightly,” he said. “It’s necessary in this case.”
Though Davis was tearful as she testified how she came to Christ in 2011 following the death of her mother-in-law, she appeared straight faced as marshals led her out of the courtroom. When previously asked her beliefs, she has said she is an Apostolic Christian.
Outside, each side continued to clash.
Ashley Hogue, a secretary from Ashland, held a sign outside the courthouse that read, “Kim Davis does not speak for my religious beliefs.”
“This is so ugly,” she said, wiping away tears. “I was unprepared for all the hate.”
Demonstrator Charles Ramey, a retired steelworker, downplayed the vitrol.
“We don’t hate these people,” he said. “We wouldn’t tell them how to get saved if we hated them.”
Davis has been resisting suggestions that her deputies could issue the licenses because her name appears on the certificates. But the crux of the contempt case against her involves Kentucky law, which, unlike some states’ laws, requires county clerks to issue marriage licenses.
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When four couples — two gay and two straight — filed suit against Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses after the June Supreme Court ruling, she argued that they could be served in other Kentucky counties. Bunning, son of GOP Sen. Jim Bunning who retired from the U.S. Senate in 2011, told her she or her deputies must issue the licenses but stayed his order until this past Monday as she filed an appeal with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
When that stay expired, appeals court judges declined to renew it. And when she asked the Supreme Court to weigh in Monday, justices in Washington refused.
The judge was not given any other alternatives by her actions and I would have done the same thing in this particular case. She is entitled to her beliefs but as a government employee there has to be a separation between church and state. And cannot pick and choose who she thinks is allowed to lawfully marry. That is discrimination and a big problem especially when done in the government level. You cannot pick and choose what laws you want to obey…….