Kim Davis gives up, will not challenge altered marriage licenses

Is it over? It sounds like it might be over. Kim Davis’s fifteen thirty too many minutes of fame might have finally run out. From NBC:

Lawyers for Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis say the marriage licenses issued by her office are binding — and no further action is required by a federal judge to change them.

“Marriage licenses are being issued in Rowan County, which [Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear] and Kentucky attorney general have approved as valid, which are recognized by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and which are deemed acceptable by the couples who received them,” her lawyers said in court filings Tuesday.

Kim Davis, screenshot via YouTube

Kim Davis, screenshot via YouTube

A month ago, these same lawyers were fairly adamant that marriage licenses issued while she was in jail, which did not include her signature, were “void,” and vowed to fight them in court. The ACLU had also expressed concerns that the licenses issued by Davis’s office after she left court had been illegally altered, and would be vulnerable to court challenges down the road. But now that Davis has gotten her national exposure, meeting with the Pope and martyr award; and now that Liberty Counsel has gotten their national exposure and slate of new clients, they are all willing to give up the fight for their right to discriminate. This, after they had promised to never give up — ever — because doing so would amount to a sinful capitulation to the forces of evil against God’s word.

Remember how worried Davis was about “losing her voice” as a Christian activist in a government office? Well, she just gave it up willingly.

So Kim Davis has, in effect conceded that it isn’t a Hell-worthy sin for her to preside over an office that issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She can keep her job, and gays and lesbians can keep their marriages, and news outlets don’t have to send national correspondents to Rowan County, Kentucky every other week.

Throughout this entire process, Kim Davis has had a very simple choice to make: do her job, or resign. She has chosen to do her job, which is great.

An apology for the dignity, time and energy she took from the same-sex couples in her jurisdiction would be nice.

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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55 Responses to “Kim Davis gives up, will not challenge altered marriage licenses”

  1. SkippyFlipjack says:

    There’s a kind of interesting passage in there where they say that if a couple does everything they are supposed to do in obtaining a marriage license, if a government functionary doesn’t do their duty it’s not the couple’s fault. So if Davis starts futzing with licenses she may be subject to sanction but the licenses, even if not compliant with state law, will be considered valid.

  2. SkippyFlipjack says:

    You might be interested in this. The other shoe dropped today, as the Governor and another state official filed their response to Judge Bunning as to whether the licenses currently being issued are valid or not. They filed a joint response and their answer was pretty much exactly what I thought it would be: “We actually don’t have the authority to say if a license is valid or not, just to do our best to issue forms in compliance with state law. But if you want our opinion, they seem OK to us.” From the last page:


    For the reasons set out above, the Third-Party Defendants will recognize as valid
    those properly-solemnized marriages performed pursuant to the altered licenses issued
    by the Rowan County Clerk’s Office, unless directed to do otherwise by this Court or
    another court of competent jurisdiction.

    So, insofar as it’s within their duties they’ll recognize the licenses, but they defer to the court — a court that asked them whether they thought the licenses were valid. Meaning that Bunning will rule against the plaintiffs and say that Davis is in compliance with the court order, leaving a bunch of married couples with sort of dinged-up marriage licenses that are like misprinted currency — always a bit suspect but will probably never be challenged.

  3. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Keep an eye out for news on this story in the next few days. At the time of this article Judge Bunning gave two state officials, including the governor, thirty days to file a statement as to whether Davis was fulfilling her obligation to the courts and allowing valid marriage licenses to be filed. This Friday is 30 days. Presumably they’ll both just say that the licenses are fine — the Governor already said as much informally — but you never know.

  4. ComradeRutherford says:

    Kirk Cameron is going to play her in the movie he’s writing…

  5. BuckCash says:

    Kirk Cameron probably got her a book and movie deal. “Left Behind Part DUH!”

  6. Chrissy says:

    Maybe the money didn’t flow into Mat Stavers coffers the way they hoped it would.

  7. Marc says:

    Seems that $xxK that Kim is being paid trumps what she believes in after all. She can buy a lot of Boone’s Farm wine and Schlitz beer earning that salary. Her flip flopping lawyers need to be disbarred too. Soon this BS will all be over with and Kim can join the same alumni club as George Wallace and a few others belong too. It even appears that the major news outlets have moved on about Kim. Now we have a basketball player found in a Vegas brothel taking her place in the news.

  8. TampaZeke says:


    Thank you for setting the record straight so clearly. My head is about to explode with people thinking that we’ve won under the current arrangement. Under the current arrangement Davis wins! We need to keep fighting until the bitch does her job or resigns. She should be back in jail for contempt of court.

  9. TampaZeke says:

    She’s “given up” because as it stands now, she wins! She doesn’t have to do her job, the license doesn’t have her name on it as it’s supposed to and there is a disclaimer on them that says that they are only issued under court order. How is that a “win” for the good guys?

  10. TampaZeke says:

    This is actually BULLSHIT! She took her name off of the licenses and put a disclaimer on them that said they were issued by court order. She’s decided not to continue fighting because she knows that if this is left the way it is SHE FUCKING WINS! We have been suckered into thinking being shafted is a victory for our side. We need to fight this bogus situation and make this bitch do her fucking job!

  11. mf_roe says:

    Thanks, Becca.

    Makes me wonder how many Kentucky marriages of backward uninformed “Libertarians” are probably NOT Legal due to lack of documentation..

  12. Evalyn Ryman says:

    . . .And yet it gets worse: “DEAR QUEER NATION (AND ALL OTHER TAXPAYERS): YOU PAID FOR KIM DAVIS’S LAWYER.” Read the ghastly truth at “The Pickford Word”, at And now, let’s figure out how in the hell to stop Mathew Staver. He’s scary. And dangerous. Vero Nihil Verius.

  13. PattyJM says:

    I love this!

    One of the reasons they are picketing her office is that WBC people think that she is a self-righteous hypocrite. WBC protesting someone else’s self-righteousness. Isn’t that special!

  14. leliorisen says:

    This is not over. There are definitely civil lawsuits coming up against her and Rowan County, and well they should.

  15. John Masters says:

    Right, there is a law on the books in KY establishing the form and format for marriage licenses. It’s why the Governor kept demurring from “making a reasonable accommodation.” He is not empowered to, and I don’t believe he’s empowered now to have the final say on whether or not these licenses are valid.

    A court is going to decide on these now or later, or those licensee’s need a new license which is not altered. And it’s my fear this can is going to get kicked down the road, and wind up being litigated 10 years from now.

  16. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Exactly. This governor’s opinion matters but won’t be binding down the road. She altered the forms enough so that they don’t adhere to the letter of state law. The judge should send her back to jail for noncompliance.

  17. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Beshear’s office did issue a statement Wednesday night saying that he thinks the licenses are valid, but he basically says it’s because the courts think they’re fine. There might be a little misunderstanding there.

  18. Dawn Welch says:

    Beshear has NOT approved anything yet; yesterday a federal judge has asked him to speak up on whether or not they are, so the valid designation hasn’t even happened yet. Davis has given up nothing. This headline that’s been everywhere is very misleading.

  19. SkippyFlipjack says:

    General note: it’s good to read the articles to understand if the headlines are accurate. It’s not just AB; lots of outlets have reported the same “Davis gives up” idea.

  20. John Masters says:

    The licenses are modified. It is possible they do not meet the requirements of the marriage license laws of the State, and nothing that Kim Davis says (or the governor for that matter) can magically establish their legality. The concern here is that 40 years down the road, if one partner dies, will the Social Security Administration, and the private insurance company, and the state in which the couple might then be residing, accept that modified marriage license as valid.

    The lawsuit needs to proceed to establish a legal foundation for the validity of those licenses. Some asshole Christian bureaucrat in some other state, down the road, could cite Staver and Davis’ previous claims the licenses were invalid, and a mourning husband is re-litigating this issue all over again.

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  22. Prolix says:

    When you are a part-time clerk and full-time successful hair farmer, it is difficult to “part” with such celebrity, but when you “comb” through the annals of history, you can always find creatures like her who have a “brush” with greatness in their own minds.

  23. Janine Sotomayor says:

    Dear: God, Allah, Ganesh, Ra, Thor, etc_ please PLEASE make this creature go away!

  24. Prolix says:

    Indeed, this is not giving up. In its rawest form, this is relitigating the underlying issues in Obergefell. Davis and that money-grubbing Staver from Liberty Counsel are contending that their altered marriage licences to LGBT couples are “good enough”. “Where is the second water fountain,” is the logical refrain.

    I have to remind everyone that at one point Staver was cheerleading the worthlessness of the marriage licenses. Now, with the ACLU calling their bluff, the licenses are “good enough” — thereby meaning LGBT couples in Rowan County are segregated and relegated to a second class license and ironically, they are given a piece of paper from a state agent proving the prejudice.

    Staver is milking this for every cent he can for the Liberty coffers. This sets up the legal and public relations issue of “appropriate accommodation” and it will undoubtedly meander its way up to the Supremes again.

  25. Paul Aldige Katz says:

    This is not giving up; Kim Davis and the Libery Counsel have been after a prize, which is to prove that the authority behind granting marriage licenses to same sex couples can simply be shifted to someone else, establishing the foundation for separate but equal (or as is always the case, not equal). If the altered licenses are found to be legal, it must also be made clear that the authority behind them was in fact he clerk’s office.

  26. Al says:

    I would include reissuing altered licenses, at her expense

  27. Al says:

    Realy , nothing more than a cashier

  28. Al says:

    Dear citizens, I will do what I want and refuse to do what I want. I will make the rules, including the wording of any legal documents I wish. I am above all, even the supreme court. I will stay the course until I decide otherwise. Under God’s authority, Kim Davis. PS. judge Bunning, who do you think your messing with.

  29. Jimmy says:

    Hopefully, the people of Rowan county vote this fool out of office.

  30. Doug105 says:

    Make her pay to reissue everyone, and in the meantime,

    Westboro Baptist Church Will Picket Outside Kim Davis’ Office Because She’s a “Fake Christian”

  31. I’m sure it’s already been said, but…”BYE FELICIA!”

  32. BeccaM says:

    I carry a miniaturized and laminated copy of our marriage certificate in my wallet.

    You’re right about that advice, too: Gay or straight, one should have a copy of the marriage certificate along with any other important documentation (birth certificate, copy of passport, Will and durable powers of attorney docs, etc.) The license is just legal permission to get married; the certificate is the proof that the marriage license was registered with the state.

  33. BeccaM says:

    Kentucky does not recognize “common law” marriages.

    The only thing working in favor of a given couple’s marriage surviving an outside challenge is the couple’s reasonable good-faith belief their license and certificate were valid. The greater vulnerability is if the couple in question (remember, this is both straight and gay couples, since Davis has ordered all marriage licenses issued in Rowan county to be defaced the same way) has a nasty breakup, and one of them claims afterwards they didn’t think the license was actually valid.

  34. mf_roe says:

    It is an important document and your right all married people regardless of gender status will have multiple needs for it. Sadly that is the true reason for the county clerk’s function not for approval but for recording a legal transaction and providing archival services. Davis has a very poor understanding of what she really is, a glorified file clerk.

  35. mf_roe says:

    Does Kentucky’s constitution give the governor the power to approve alterations of proscribed legal forms. Has the Kentucky Supreme Court supported the Gov’s authority and can a new governor invalidate the approval?

  36. nicho says:

    I would recommend that anyone — not just same-sex couples — get a copy of their marriage certificate. Just to be sure. However, I think this goes double for same-sex couples. I also keep a copy of it online, so I can access it in a jiffy from my phone or tablet if needed.

  37. mf_roe says:

    $80K yr county clerk salary If I remember correctly. Go for a Federal charge of civil rights violation. Is creation of a fraudulent legal document a felony in ol’ Kanetuck? Take her out of her office and teach her the power of the law in the hands of a vast army of folks fed up with bigoted ignorance.

  38. Jeff Brown says:

    why would i believe ANYTHING that Liberty Counsel had to say? their track record for honesty is abysmal, at best.

  39. MoonDragon says:

    How about a class action suit against this scofflaw for willful infliction of emotional distress, any award to be paid by attaching her wingnut welfare?

  40. BearEyes says:

    that’s why I went back to our town clerk (we don’t do the county recording in CT) to get a certified copy of our marriage license a few weeks after we said I Do – just to be sure it was recorded properly.

  41. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Here’s the full court filing. To me, this confirms that they’re not giving up, but staying the course. The judge said she had to issue licenses without materially altering them; in order to get out of jail, she started issuing materially altered licenses. The judge checked around and said the new licenses seemed good enough; the ACLU said “hold on, these no longer meet Kentucky state law.” This latest filing is just her lawyers replying “You’re wrong, they’re fine.” (“[R]espectfully submits this Response in Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Motion to Enforce this Court’s September 3, 2015 and September 8, 2015 Orders.”)

    Specifically, the plaintiffs and the ACLU are asking for the county clerk’s office to remove “pursuant to federal court order” and “notary public” from the forms. They say that state law requires a county official to sign the license, and having a clerk do so in their capacity as a notary and not agent of the state could invalidate the license. Restoring the forms would be giving up, and Davis is not doing that.

  42. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I don’t see this as them giving up. It’s just another filing in the conversation about whether she is abiding by the court orders. From the NBC article:

    One of her deputy clerks said she deleted all mention of Rowan County, removed her name, and omitted references to deputy clerks. Only a deputy’s name is on the form — and not his title — with a place for him to initial rather than to use his signature.

    Those changes, the couples told the judge, were inconsistent with state rules for marriage licenses, raising potential questions about their validity.

    But Davis’ lawyers said Tuesday not to worry.

    “The Kentucky governor and Kentucky attorney general both inspected the new licenses and publicly stated that they were valid and will be recognized as valid by the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” the lawyers said.

    In other words, some couples said the forms had been altered, and now her lawyers say “Trust us, they’re fine.” We’ll see.

  43. SkippyFlipjack says:

    These are the same attorneys who claimed there was a huge rally for Davis in Peru (there wasn’t) and that she had a personal meeting with the Pope where he said he supported her cause (she didn’t and he didn’t). They’re bigoted activist hacks. I’m assuming all this announcement means is that she’s continuing to issue the altered forms but that she now says they’re valid, which means nothing and is yet another sign of her and her lawyers’ greatly inflated view of her powers.

  44. mf_roe says:

    Seems prudence would advise a renewal of vows complete with a new license from a less backward jurisdiction. Have you done research on the common law marriage laws of that state, are common law unions legally inferior in any way and do their de facto nature render the lack of a license moot?

  45. koolaidyarn says:

    I hadn’t thought of that. How many will “accidentally” get lost or not recorded?

  46. koolaidyarn says:

    I can’t help but wonder if – no, assume that – Kim and her cohorts are hoping for exactly this. Spread doubt about the licenses’ uncertain legality, and hope they’re declared null in a nasty divorce or child custody case.

  47. nicho says:

    Exactly, it’s not an issue until there’s a problem. Then, the shit hits the fan. All it takes is what you’ve cited OR one partner in a marriage hitting the lottery for the whole enchilada and deciding that he/she doesn’t want to share with the spouse. Then, you’ll see sharp Wall Street lawyers making mincemeat out of the Kim Davis attorneys who got their degrees from a bible school or a strip-mall “law school.”

  48. FLL says:

    The progress I’m watching for is this. Has Kim Davis agreed to stop altering, defacing and removing her name and title from the marriage licenses coming out of her office? That would indeed be progress.

  49. BeccaM says:

    It’s too late. Davis went ahead and created sufficient legal uncertainty with these defaced licenses and certificates issued, they still can be challenged in court. And let’s not forget: Davis has, without court or legislative permission, altered the licenses and certificates so that they no longer comply with Kentucky state law, for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples marrying in Rowan county.

    As I’ve said a few times now, all it’ll take is a messy divorce or a child custody battle or some family deciding they want to interfere with an inheritance, and they will end up in court. Just because the governor and DA have said they think they licenses are good enough, there is no backing legislation or court ruling as yet agreeing with their position. The licenses do not cite Rowan county at all anymore, nor the authority of the county clerk’s office. Furthermore, they cite no authority higher than that of a notary public…an office under Kentucky law that is not authorized to issue marriage licenses.

    Last month, Davis and her attorneys were insisting the altered licenses weren’t valid at all. Now they claim they are. I’d like to know what specific statutes her incompetent attorneys can cite as evidence of validity, since the licenses and certificates apparently now contain no county clerk (or authorized deputy) signatures, no names sufficient to track who issued or registered the licenses, and no county seal of official registration.

  50. nicho says:

    Oh, yeah. She’ll pull a typical right-wing religious turnaround. As soon as “the bible” tells her she can’t do something she really wants to do, she’ll switch back and then apologize for all the damage she’s done. We’ve seen that time and time again

  51. Jim Olson says:

    Don’t hold your breath. The apology will not be televised.

  52. percysowner says:

    Her lawyers also said that she was totally right to refuse to do her job and would not be sent to jail for that. THEY say the licenses are legal. Let’s let an actual judge decide that, so she can’t come back in a few years and say “Neener, Neener you aren’t married”.

  53. nicho says:

    Not so fast. Once the marriages are performed and the licenses are returned to the clerk’s office, they have to be certified and recorded by her. If she doesn’t do that, as far as the law is concerned, the marriages never took place.

  54. TomL says:

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for that last request.

  55. Indigo says:

    Meet the Pope and back off: 1. Boehner, 2. McCarthy, 3. Davis.
    Pope 3 / Dunderheads 0

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