U. S. Attorney Has ‘Grave Concerns’ About Homophobic KY Clerk’s Behavior

The obstinate refusal of Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis to issue marriage licenses to anyone in protest of the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of marriage equality already has her in hot water. As I write this, Davis is trying to talk her way out of being held in contempt by a federal judge for defying his order to resume issuing marriage licenses. She could also face state charges of official misconduct–a process that could potentially lead to her impeachment and removal from office by the state legislature. Now the area U. S. Attorney has weighed in on the matter. In so doing, he may have warned Davis that she could potentially be forced out of office for federal civil rights violations if she continues her charade.


In a strongly-worded statement, Kerry Harvey, the U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, said that he has “grave concerns” about Davis’ “reported failure to comply” with federal district judge David Bunning’s order. He added–rightly, that “government officials are free to disagree with the law, but not disobey it.” He added that Davis has exhausted all of her legal options in her fight to get out of issuing licenses to same-sex couples, and it is now time for her to “follow the law.”

If I were Davis or her attorneys from Liberty Counsel and I were reading this statement, I would be afraid. Very afraid. The mere fact that Harvey has even weighed in on this at all is an announcement in capital letters that U. S. Attorney’s office is seriously considering taking action against Davis unless she comes to her senses. Autarkh at Daily Kos noted that if Davis continues to turn away couples seeking marriage licenses, Harvey could potentially charge Davis with deprivation of rights under color of law. Additionally, if Davis and her staff continue in this charade, the U. S. Attorney could charge them all with conspiracy against rights under color of law.

From where I’m sitting, any case against Davis would be significantly bolstered by the fact that she is turning away straight couples as well. By her actions, all couples in Rowan County who want a marriage license, regardless of sexual orientation, have been held hostage for two months. Davis has not addressed this in any statement issued on her behalf. Apparently Liberty Counsel has overlooked this as well. Those defending Davis need to ask themselves–in what world is it acceptable for innocent third parties to be made collateral damage in this way?

Under sentencing guidelines, Davis could face a minimum of 33 to 41 months in federal prison if convicted for her civil rights violations. More importantly, though, violating others’ civil rights is a felony. Kentucky, like nearly every other state, has a provision in its state constitution that bars convicted felons from holding office. So if Davis were convicted of civil rights violations, she would automatically be removed as county clerk.

At the very least, Davis is likely to be heavily fined for her continued defiance today, and possibly jailed. If that doesn’t make an impression on her, Harvey should start a full criminal investigation with a view toward charging her with civil rights violations. This would send a strong message to any other official who thinks they can use their office to continue to violate LGBT people’s rights–it’s not only wrong, it’s illegal. Harvey should be applauded for recognizing that Davis has created an outrageously illegal situation that cannot be allowed to continue.

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.