Kim Davis court ordered to issue marriage licenses, refuses, continues digging legal hole

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning ordered Rowan County clerk Kim Davis to begin issuing marriage licenses or risk setting a “dangerous precedent.” As he wrote:

Our form of government will not survive unless we, as a society, agree to respect the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions, regardless of our personal opinions. Davis is certainly free to disagree with the court’s opinion, as many Americans likely do, but that does not excuse her from complying with it.

This morning, yet another same-sex Kentucky couple said that they had been denied a marriage license by the Rowan County Clerks’ Office.

Doubling down on her clearly illegal refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples may seem odd, as the question at hand in the lawsuits featuring Davis as either plaintiff or defendant (mostly defendant) is already settled. It’s abundantly clear that a government official can’t refuse to execute their public responsibilities due to their private religious beliefs. As Bunning continued:

[Davis] may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County jail. She is even 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.

However, Davis’s lawyer has already said that she plans to appeal, and has asked for a stay on Bunning’s ruling, which could be the reason why Davis felt she could continue to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples today.

Apparently, for Davis, abiding by the court’s injunction would itself be an admission that she is on the wrong side of all of the current lawsuits against her, along with the countersuit she has filed. When you’re in that kind of a legal hole, there’s nothing to do but keep digging.

Furthermore, Bunning ruled in his injunction that signing a marriage license doesn’t even imply an endorsement of the marriage in question. Davis’s signature simply certifies that the information provided on the license is correct. It is, as Bunning wrote, a “purely legal” task, with an entirely secular purpose and no religious grounding whatsoever.

Kim Davis, screenshot via YouTube

Kim Davis, screenshot via YouTube

Davis disagrees. As with Christian colleges such as Wheaton, which considers the requirement of codifying their objection to itself be a violation of their religious beliefs, Davis maintains that being in any way involved with a same-sex marriage is an illegal burden on her First Amendment rights. She has argued that even delegating the responsibility of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, simply letting someone else sign the form in her stead, violates her supposed right as County Clerk to deny marriage to people she holds to be living in sin.

That would presumably include Davis, whose marriage license expertise may have something to do with the fact that she’s procured four of them for herself, but that’s neither here nor there.

As I noted when Davis filed her countersuit against Governor Steve Beshear last week, her entire case rests on how far courts are willing to apply Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Passed in an override of Governor Beshear’s veto, the law prohibits Kentucky from restricting citizens’ abilities to exercise their religious beliefs without a compelling state interest. As Bunning’s injunction implies, the government has a compelling state interest in ensuring that its employees aren’t able to ignore parts of their jobs that they find objectionable. This being the case, Kentucky’s RFRA shouldn’t apply to Davis.

So far, every judge to whom the question has been posed has agreed.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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37 Responses to “Kim Davis court ordered to issue marriage licenses, refuses, continues digging legal hole”

  1. Butch1 says:

    I have this feeling that they may change their law regarding clerks in Kentucky regarding marriage licences. It’s too hard to get rid of them when they start pulling this kind of evil especially refusing to do any work at all and then not being able to remove them. (or at least when the legislature happens to “agree” with her they will do nothing to remove her.) There should be an addendum to her rules and regulations that state if she refuses to do her job for any reason, she can be removed and someone can replace her until the problem is settled either in arbitration or in court. But, the issuing of marriage licenses cannot stop while this is happening.

  2. teila says:

    But she’d be dead and people could get married, and the next idiot that wants to inject their personal religious views where it doesn’t belong might think twice. “They” can erect 100 statues of her as most of us couldn’t care less… as long as she’s put down like any other terrorist.

  3. teila says:

    They need to stop paying her, and retroactively take back through garnishment and via her tax returns *partial* payments for her not doing her job. The poetic irony is that her actions are somewhat a blessing in disguise, because future employers (state and private corporate entities) are taking note, and will discretely check out, and subsequently discriminate against people like her, for fear of them not being able to separate their personal beez-wax from their jobs descriptions.

  4. Butch1 says:

    She would just become a religious martyr. They would probably erect a statue in her honor. (I think I’m going to be sick.)

  5. teila says:

    She wasn’t “hired” is why. I was hoping some lunatic would shoot her dead!

    …and use “It was God’s will” as a defense ;)

  6. teila says:

    This is why you always technically have all or most of your private/corporate employees in a state where you can fire them at will. I would’ve fired her on the spot when she first stopped doing her job. I don’t give a rats behind what her personal or religious views are. I hire you to do a job, you do it, or won’t have a job anymore.

    For the record, I believe in (technically, per IRS tests/guidelines) NOT having employees, in part, due to this very reason… I believe in taking care of problem children swiftly! Likewise, government workers should not have so many protections. It’s too much paperwork and problems to fire many government workers and that means the system, at least in that context, is broke.

  7. LOOKINIKOOL says:

    I think all couples involved should sue her for forcing her religious beliefs on others as a government employee…breaking all of their 1st Amendment rights to freedom of religion (if their beliefs accept same sex marriage, then it’s their First Amendment right too)

  8. ThisStyle says:

    Forcing your religious beliefs on other people…isn’t that why the people on the Mayflower left England? She needs to resign her position if she can’t or won’t do the job! Oh, and pay back some of the salary paid her while NOT doing her job!

  9. J.C. Marie says:

    As of today, she has officially hand out marriage licenses. As I have been saying sinceI heard about this case, it is her right to believe what she wants to believe in her personal life. However, when she works for the government, a government which has a separation of Church and state, she needs to keep her personal beliefs out of it. She is a government employee. Therefore, she needs to perform her duties within the parameters set by the laws and Constitution. As of June 26th, the Supreme Court ruled that to deny members of the LGBTQ+ community marriage licenses violated their constitutional rights. Therefore, her personal beliefs have no place when she carries out her job.

  10. dcinsider says:

    Judge approved the stay, which is unfortunate.

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  12. FLL says:

    I’ve heard that the secret guideline of the court system is “Judges don’t like smart-asses,” which may explain the SCOTUS decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

  13. The court needs to get serious and start siting for contempt and putting in jail.

  14. Butch1 says:

    Exactly so; she is one, big hypocrite the minute she opens her mouth and spouts anything about hiding behind her religion when she tries to use it as an excuse for her reason for her homophobia and bigotry against gays and lesbians.
    Perhaps she needs some protesters around her place of employment just to continue to remind them that she is still breaking the laws of the land.

  15. BeccaM says:

    Hell, Davis also ignored the only thing her Jesus guy ever allegedly said about marriage. Which was? Don’t get divorced! Yet she’s done it a reported three times already.

    The very line most of the homophobes point to as evidence — implied in a second-hand kind of way — that Jesus didn’t or wouldn’t approve of civil-law same-sex marriage is actually directly addressed to those in his religious culture who casually divorced.

  16. 2karmanot says:

    Oh yes!~

  17. Houndentenor says:

    And then she could just run for the same office again a year or two later.

  18. Butch1 says:

    That makes more sense and of course the legislature is conservative and would back her. It sounds as though she has all of her bases covered, save the court system and that will ultimately determine her fate. A short prison sentence for contempt would be fitting for this four time divorcee who is such an authority on marriages that she thinks she can deny licenses to gays because of her “religion.”

    Hypocrite, look into the mirror. You are ignoring your Messiah’s words on not judging others. I guess that doesn’t matter in her small brain.

  19. sonoitabear says:

    “Has anyone checked gofundme yet?”

    GoFundMe has a policy against lawbreakers profiting from their crimes…

  20. BeccaM says:

    Sadly, it’s because she was elected, not hired, and it would take legislative action (aka state-level impeachment) to remove this homophobic bigot.

  21. Butch1 says:

    That’s not a good enough excuse for me.

  22. nicho says:

    Good. We need to keep it up. Bleed those bastards dry.

  23. ComradeRutherford says:

    Because she’s a religious bigot, duh!

  24. Steven says:

    Any and all fines she accrues will be paid by the evangelicals who are likely fundraising for her at this very moment. Has anyone checked gofundme yet? I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re already getting a campaign together.

  25. BeccaM says:

    I remember the same era, but conscientious objection isn’t even in the same ballpark as what Davis is trying to do.

    The draft was compelled service, being forced under possible penalty of the law to take on whatever military job the government decided to assign to you — which in many cases was to pick up a rifle and use it to shoot at other people with the intent of killing them. Conscientious objection was indeed a difficult exemption to obtain, and in more than a few instances it simply resulted in a draftee being shuffled off to some other job in the military, such as being a medic.

    In Rowan County, Kentucky, the job of county clerk isn’t just 100% voluntary, it’s one you have to be elected to do. If any of the legally obligated duties associated with the job are objectionable, then Davis should simply resign and go off to be a private bigot elsewhere.

    There have been many instances of clerks and justices of the peace refusing to issue licenses or perform some function essential to legal, secular marriage — only they objected to mixed-race couples. Again, on religious grounds. And in every single case post-Loving v Virginia, the courts ruled against the bigots.

  26. Butch1 says:

    Why does this religious bigot still have a job?

  27. jgcarter56 says:

    Just wondering; for states with Religious Freedom laws on the books that indicate that people can do or not do stuff based on their deeply held religious beliefs, doesn’t that mean that the state can now question whether those “deeply held religious beliefs” are valid or not in order to determine if the law applies? What if the “deeply held religious belief” says that they won’t server black people, or people of Italian or Irish descent or something along those lines? Doesn’t the government get to call bullshit? Or at least get some more specifics on what, exactly, qualifies as a “deeply held religious belief”?

    Quite frankly, from a Christian point of view, I don’t think any of this discrimination against gays stuff has anything to do with a valid Christian belief as Jesus didn’t say anything about that being okay and, I think, said instead that that stuff is NOT okay (judge not…, let your who are without sin…, twig in someone else’s eye vs. log in your own, that sort of thing).

  28. FuzzyRabbit says:

    ” . . . Davis, whose marriage license expertise may have something to do with the fact that she’s procured four of them for herself, . . . ”

    Davis probably claims that marriage is “one man, one woman” for the rest of us, even though in her case it is four men, one woman. Not all at the same time, but still.

  29. dcinsider says:

    There is not much of a legal issue here, and the Judge made that clear. She can appeal til the cows come home, but there is not a Court in the country, including SCOTUS, that is going to permit a public employee to pick and choose which laws they want to abide by based on religious grounds.

    As there exists virtually no likelihood of success, and as her appeal grounds are directly interfering with the Constitutional rights of the people of her county, the Judge should deny the stay.

    I suspect he will do just that. At which point, Davis will be in a very precarious position. I do not expect that the Judge will jail her for contempt, but I would expect a fine for each day she refuses to perform the function.

    This one may get very ugly very quickly. Judges don’t much like folks ignoring their orders. They are funny that way.

  30. Doug105 says:

    Miss Davis has already signed up, and is now refusing to follow orders or step down. So I don’t see your agrument holding up.

  31. MoonDragon says:

    Back when I was in seminary school, there was a man who put forth the proposition that you could petition the Lord with prayer . . . sorry, wrong memory from my youth. When I was in HS and college young men were required to register for the draft and serve if called. They could petition to be classified as conscientious objectors if they could prove deeply held religious or philosophical reasons to be exempted from service in the military. It was a rigorous process and was only rarely successful. Might I suggest Ms. Davis be subject to a similar process if she wishes to be exempt from the duties she has chosen to perform.

  32. Indigo says:

    Yet she hasn’t been fired.

  33. Adam says:

    Davis may have forgotten this little nugget from Romans 13:1-5 (NIV), which pretty much sums up what you are saying from a biblical perspective:

    “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves….Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities….”

    The same book she’s using to defend her argument can also be used to defeat her argument.

  34. keirmeister says:

    Forgive me, but sometimes this self-righteous bulls*&t makes me so furious I want to punch someone. Davis’ behavior is EVIL to its core.

    It’s time to stop calling it a “religious objection”. It’s bigotry, plain and simple…and Kim Davis is a vicious, bigoted monster. Fire her immediately and let her find employment where her precious bigotry doesn’t harm decent TAX PAYING Americans.

  35. Adam says:

    A similar argument was used in Reynolds v. U.S. (1870-something) regarding polygamy. It didn’t work back then either. And on that note, what if a clerk decided it would violate his or her religious beliefs to DENY issuance of a marriage license to a man attempting to take on a second, third, fourth wife simultaneously?

  36. nicho says:

    If your religious beliefs forbid you to perform the legally required duties of your job, you need to change either your religious beliefs or your job. Period. To knowingly take or keep a job you can’t do is dishonest.

  37. Gary Harmer says:

    Just another ignorant, inbred, religious idiot. Ain’t “religion” wonderful.

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