You may recall that last month, Kim Davis, the county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, made national news when she was caught on tape refusing to grant a marriage license to a same-sex couple. This came just days after the federal Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. Well, just today, despite a federal judge’s order, Davis turned away a request for a marriage license from the very couple that shone the hot lights on her in the first place.
For those who missed it, Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether in protest of the Supreme Court ruling, even after Governor Steve Beshear told them their oaths to uphold the federal Constitution required them to issue licenses to same-sex couples. Four couples–two LGBT couples and two straight couples–sued Davis and Rowan County with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.
When the case was heard before federal district judge David Bunning in mid-July, Davis argued that if she were to sign a marriage license, it would be tantamount to approving the marriage. The county clerk, who was being represented by Christianist law firm Liberty Counsel, contended that as an Apostolic Pentecostal–an uber-strict offshoot of Pentecostalism that requires women to wear long skirts, not cut their hair, not wear jewelry, and not wear makeup–she could not be seen as approving a same-sex marriage.
Bunning didn’t buy it. In a blistering 28-page injunction, he found that Davis’ religious beliefs “cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform” as county clerk. He ordered Davis to resume issuing marriage licenses immediately. When David Moore and David Ermold, who famously recorded Davis’ initial refusal, got wind of this, they made plans to head to the clerk’s office the next morning and apply for a license.
When Moore and Ermold arrived, however, they were told by a deputy county clerk that on Liberty Counsel’s advice, same-sex couples still couldn’t get marriage licenses while Davis’ office appeals to the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. What Liberty Counsel apparently missed, however, is that the injunction remains in effect unless Davis can persuade either Bunning or the Sixth Circuit to stay yesterday’s injunction.
You would think that this question could be disposed of quickly if you asked whether a county clerk would be within his or her rights to turn away an interracial couple. Just about everyone of all political shades knows that answer is a resounding “no.” Well, according to WKYT-TV in Lexington, when Bunning heard this case, Davis hedged on whether she could turn away an interracial couple if interracial marriage ran counter to her beliefs. She also didn’t know who had the final say on what the Constitution says.
Liberty Counsel, for those who don’t know, is an arm of the ministry empire founded by the late Jerry Falwell–so by definition, it’s a sketchy outfit. But you would think they would at least have some standards, as well as a reasonable degree of competence. If they’re sticking with Davis when she can’t give a straight answer on whether a county clerk would have the right to deny a marriage license to an interracial couple, it shows they have no standards. And if they didn’t prepare her to answer a question that a third-grader could answer, it shows they’re incompetent.
The mission of the Rowan County Clerk’s office is to “serve the public in a friendly, professional, and efficient manner.” Apparently that’s only the case if you aren’t gay. This stance could end up costing Davis dearly in more ways than one. Since she is still refusing, she could potentially be held in contempt of court. Apparently it’s up to the ACLU to seek a contempt ruling. Hopefully someone from the ACLU is on the way to Bunning’s court to seek such a ruling. This opera buffa cannot continue.