Citing God's Authority, Kentucky Clerk Defies U.S. Supreme Court

Despite a high court ruling, the avowed Christian refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Tuesday.

Kim Davis. (Image: Courtesy YouTube)

Sep 1, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Rebecca McCray is a staff writer covering social justice. She is based in New York.

A disobedient Kentucky county clerk who says her religious liberty is being denied continued to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples Tuesday morning as reporters and license seekers crowded into her office. Rowan County clerk Kim Davis’ refusal comes in spite of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Monday ruling against her bid to temporarily avoid granting marriage licenses while she appeals a lower court’s preliminary ruling. The elected official turned away two gay couples seeking licenses Tuesday morning, according to The Associated Press.

“We are not issuing marriage licenses today,” Davis repeatedly told two men in a tense exchange. She informed James Yates and Will Smith Jr., who were making their fifth attempt to get a marriage license from Davis, that she had the right to deny the licenses “under God’s authority” and then asked them to leave.

“You can call the police if you want us to leave,” one of the men replied.

Late Tuesday morning, a federal judge ordered the Apostolic Christian, who interprets the Bible literally, and her deputy clerks to appear in court to defend their actions.

Davis has been denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples in her capacity as clerk ever since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June, when she also forbade her deputy clerks from issuing them. She has been sued by at least three couples seeking licenses. The county and a Rowan county judge are also defendants in the lawsuit. Yates and Smith, one of the couples who sued Davis, are seeking a jury trial and compensatory damages for the deprivation of their right to marry.

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents two of the couples, filed a motion on Tuesday asking a federal judge to hold Davis in contempt of court. If she is found in contempt, her defiance risks punishment by jail time or hefty fines, the AP reported. Though a judge can impose jail time, the couples represented by the ACLU asked that she be fined rather than jailed.

Tuesday’s hearing comes in response to a request from Rowan County officials, who asked the Kentucky attorney general’s office to bring misconduct charges against the elected official.

“No authority exists for her removal or suspension from the office by the Rowan County government,” county attorney Cecil Watkins told The Morehead News. Davis’ status as an elected official poses a challenge for those pushing for her removal from office. The county attorney general’s office isn’t able to prosecute Davis, according to Watkins, because of state law.

Davis, who is required by civil law to issue marriage licenses, makes $80,000 per year as chief clerk in a county where the median yearly income is $35,000.