Federal Judge Summons KY Clerk Who Won’t Issue Marriage License To LGBT Couples

Kim Davis is a slow learner. With the failure of her last-ditch appeal to the federal Supreme Court yesterday, the county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky was up against a legal wall. For the last two months, she has protested the Supremes’ decision to make marriage equality the law of the land by refusing to grant a marriage license to any couples at all, gay or straight. Davis faced a deadline to end this protest and resume granting licenses by today, as well as the prospect of being charged with official misconduct for her shameful behavior. Davis chose to dig in and turned away at least two gay couples seeking a license. Now the same federal judge who previously ordered her to end this charade wants to have a not-so-friendly chat with her.


Earlier this morning, April Miller and Karen Roberts were the first through the door of the Rowan County courthouse to seek a marriage license. Even though Davis no longer has any legal grounds to do so, one of her deputies told Miller and Roberts that no one was getting a marriage license today. Miller and Roberts walked out and gave the bad news to David Moore and David Ermold, who famously recorded Davis turning down their request for a license in June. Ermold demanded that Davis “come out and face the people she’s discriminating against.”

Davis came out of her office and reiterated that no one was getting a license today. Ermold asked, “Under whose authority?” Davis retorted, “Under God’s authority.” When Ermold said they weren’t leaving until they got a marriage license, Davis replied, “Then you’re going to have a long day.” Watch the exchange here, as seen on WKYT-TV in Lexington:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1O1Cb4O3dQs]

Moore also recorded a fuller version of today’s encounter here.

In a statement issued through Liberty Counsel, the Christianist law firm that has been representing her, Davis said that the courts are asking her to “violate a central teaching of Scripture” as well as her conscience by granting marriage licenses to LGBT couples. As she sees it, this is “a Heaven or Hell decision.” Apparently Davis doesn’t know that back in February, she issued a marriage license to a couple who turned out to be transgender. Hmmm–no lightning bolt came down then. She also said that she has received death threats. As despicable as Davis’ actions are, any threats against her are equally despicable.

Miller, Roberts, Ermold, and Moore didn’t take this lying down. Along with two straight couples, they petitioned federal district judge David Bunning to hold Davis in contempt of court for defying the injunction he issued on August 12 ordering her to resume granting marriage licenses regardless of the sexual orientation of the couple. They don’t want Bunning to throw Davis in jail. Rather, they believe that since Davis is still accepting a salary “for duties she fails to perform,” they simply want Bunning to slap her with a heavy fine. Bunning wasted little time summoning Davis and her staff to his courtroom in Ashland on Thursday to show cause for why he shouldn’t hold them in contempt.

It should be noted that Bunning is the son of former U. S. Senator Jim Bunning, who was well-known as one of the most rigidly conservative members of that chamber. Theoretically, Bunning fils should have been receptive to Davis’ argument that as a devout Apostolic Pentecostal–a member of an ultra-strict offshoot of Pentecostalism that doesn’t allow women to have short hair, pants, jewelry, or makeup–she can’t be seen as “approving” same-sex marriages by granting LGBT couples a marriage license. Yet, Bunning essentially wadded up that argument and threw it back at her.

I would agree that fining Davis would be enough–if she were just turning away LGBT couples. But for the last two months, no one in Rowan County has been able to get a marriage license. She would have come out looking a lot better if she’d simply resigned rather than be seen as violating her conscience. Instead, she chose to effectively hold couples who want to get married in Rowan County hostage–something that no statement she has made, including the one issued today, has even begun to address.

This cannot stand. Unless she has a really good explanation for why she is keeping up this opera buffa, Bunning should jail her until she’s willing to comply. And the state legislature shouldn’t wait for the official misconduct charges to play out in court. For the sake of everyone in Rowan County, someone in the state house should summon the backbone to file articles of impeachment against her.


Darrell is a 30-something graduate of the University of North Carolina who considers himself a journalist of the old school. An attempt to turn him into a member of the religious right in college only succeeded in turning him into the religious right's worst nightmare--a charismatic Christian who is an unapologetic liberal. His desire to stand up for those who have been scared into silence only increased when he survived an abusive three-year marriage. You may know him on Daily Kos as Christian Dem in NC. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to buy Darrell a Mello Yello.