Judge jails Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis for her refusal to issue marriage licenses

From NBC News:

A federal judge has ordered a Kentucky clerk to jail after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who has turned away same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses, was found in contempt of court and taken into custody on Thursday.

Davis, 49, was in federal district court to appear before a judge after refusing to issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples in Rowan County. Davis, an Apostolic Christian, has said doing so would “violate God’s definition of marriage” and infringe on her personal religious beliefs.

District Court Judge David Bunning said that she is bound by an oath of office to perform her duties under the law, and ordered her to jail.

The Associated Press is reporting that any other clerks who refuse to comply can be jailed too.

Hillary Clinton has just tweeted her support for jailing Kim Davis:

As Clinton and other gay marriage supporters are cheering the incarceration of Kim Davis, Nicholas Frankovich points out that the movement to legalize gay marriage was rife with defying the law, yet none of those lawbreakers were put in jail. He writes:

In 2004, Mayor Gavin Newsom directed city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of California state law.

In 2004, Mayor Jason West of New Paltz directed city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of New York state law.

In 2010, attorney general Jerry Brown declined to answer legal challenges to California’s marriage law, which, after Proposition 8, was that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid.” His job was to represent the state of California in legal matters and defend its laws, including those he didn’t like.

In 2013, D. Bruce Hanes, an official of Montgomery County, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of Pennsylvania state law.

The history of the movement to redefine marriage is shot through with defiance of laws that those who broke them sincerely felt were deeply wrong. To be consistent, anyone who thinks that Newsom, West, Brown, and Hanes were courageous and principled must now judge Davis by the same standard.

The Washington Post has this lede in its report:

A county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was found in contempt of court Thursday and taken into custody.

“The idea of natural law superceding this court’s authority would be a dangerous precedent indeed,” U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning told Rowan County clerk Kim Davis.

“Thank you, judge,” she replied before being removed from the courtroom by U.S. marshals.

Christian conservatives have disagreed whether Kim Davis’ approach in this case was the right one (see Doug Wilson, Ryan Anderson, Rod Dreher). Hopefully, we can all agree now that it is a travesty that she has been incarcerated. Lord, have mercy.

40 Responses to Judge jails Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis for her refusal to issue marriage licenses

  1. Christiane Smith September 3, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

    When the news came out, I thought ‘Well, Denny might write about this case’ and yep, here it is. I look forward to the discussion.

    • Christiane Smith September 3, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

      I am trying to sort out what happens to a public official who is elected to office when they fail to keep their oath of office to uphold the law . . . Because they are ‘elected’ by the people, I don’t think they can be ‘fired’, can they? . . . is ‘jailing’ and ‘fines’ the alternative ? . . . couldn’t anything else be done instead of jailing Kim?

      Personally, I think she should resign. (And probably should have resigned when she realized she could no longer do that job as elected, in good conscience) . . . my opinion only.

  2. Bill Hickman September 3, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

    Kim Davis could both protect her conscience and avoid contempt of court charges by leaving her job. Seems like a sensible choice. Why does she refuse to do that?

  3. Sandra Stewart September 3, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    “When she decides to comply with the order to start issuing licenses she will be released. In the meantime, the county judge’s office can issue licenses in her absence, so Rowan County couples can once again get hitched.”
    The bible is very clear about the law. she violated it.

  4. Ian Shaw September 3, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    This isn’t as cut and dry and some people think. As believers, we have to understand that we do not live in a theistic kingdom/country. The thoughts/beliefs of this country/culture are not our own. We should be respectful of the laws that are created, even if we don’t agree with them (whether they have eternal consequences or not). That being said, I think she should have just stepped down. It’s like she wanted to “have her cake and eat it too”. If I take a job where I am expected to do certain things, and I disagree with some new portion/responsibility of my job at a cosmic level, I’m going to voice that I take exception to this and if it can’t be removed from my responsibilities to my employer, I’m going to resign.

    I have no issue with her taking a stand for her faith. I applaud her, but staying in a job, where you don’t execute 1 of your responsibilities is doing a job not to completion. I don’t know why, but as a believer, it irks me that she has no issues doing her job, but 1 thing. If I said that to my boss, I’d be fired (I know it’s different because she was elected).

    Now she’s going to be the poster child for persecution in America. And all the posts on FB will start in 3..2..1…

    Correct me if I am wrong, does the state of Kentucky still define marriage as 1 man, 1 woman?

    • Denny Burk September 3, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

      Ian, the United States Supreme Court made gay marriage a constitutional right nationwide last summer.

      • Ian Shaw September 3, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

        Well aware Denny. I was asking what is the law on the books of Kentucky. Do states right matter any more? Pretty sure there was a war over the rights of states. The USSC should not have the ability to usurp the laws that were voted upon by the citizens of those states based on the views of a small majority (sociological arbitrary law was what Schaeffer called it)

        Marijuana is still classified as an illegal drug. States have made medicinal marijuana legal and in some cases (Colorado) decriminalized the whole thing. Yet the feds will and can still raid dispensaries and individuals (Colorado) for possession and procuring this drug. Yet, there was and is talk in the Obama administration (AG Holder) to hold off on federal prosecution of those violating federal marijuana laws). How can something be one and the other at the same time? The principle applies here, except it’s in this administrations agenda to use the USSC to crush the will of the people in states that have voted to define what something is, rather than have the USSC give no definition whatsoever.

        • Bill Hickman September 3, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

          “Do states right matter any more? Pretty sure there was a war over the rights of states.”

          Yes there was, and states’ rights did not fare well. See U.S. Const. amend. XIV.

        • James Stanton September 3, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

          “The USSC should not have the ability to usurp the laws that were voted upon by the citizens of those states based on the views of a small majority”

          This is mostly a case of conservatives opposing the SC when it rules against laws that they favor. Conservatives, for example, ignore states rights or legislative authority when it comes to the Votings Rights Act or Citizens United cases. You’re making a case for getting rid of the SC we know it because what you are talking about would destroy the concept of judicial review.

  5. Bill Hickman September 3, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

    “the movement to legalize gay marriage was rife with defying the law, yet none of those lawbreakers were put in jail.”

    Those examples exceeded/misused/declined to use their authority under state law as government officials. Legally speaking, that’s very different from disobeying a direct order from a federal judge.

  6. Roy Fuller September 3, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    As a supporter of marriage equality, and thus a liberal, I do not “cheer” this woman’s incarceration, because I thought it was completely unnecessary. I find the whole episode sad. It puts Christians like myself in the position of having to defend the faith in the face of a very public example of misguided faith. She will be the martyr to those who will use this as more evidence of “persecution” of conservative/fundamentalist Christian in the United States. And I hope she sues her lawyers for malpractice, they seem to have given her poor legal advice.

    • Chris Ryan September 3, 2015 at 7:11 pm #

      Yeah, I was hoping the judge would fine the county and not incarcerate her, thereby making her a martyr. That’s the ‘rock star’ attention she clearly wants….I myself agree that homosexuality is a sin but the idea that a woman on her 4th marriage refuses to allow her deputies to issue licenses suggests to me that she’s forgotten John 8:7. Had her mother (who was the county clerk then) felt the same, Ms. Davis wouldn’t have enjoyed her 2nd, 3rd, or 4th marriage. Whatever she may be she’s not the poster child for the anti-SSM movement that some people would like her to be.

      • Ian Shaw September 4, 2015 at 8:09 am #

        Chris,

        Throwing someone’s personal life into the mix does not make for a good argument. Personal attacks show a lack of support for your side of the argument. We don’t know what happened in her marriages. Better to take the log out before we pull the speck out, right?

        • Chris Ryan September 4, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

          Ian, I’m just suggesting that she’s hypocritical, employing one standard for herself and another for others. As Christians we must practice what we preach, and we must denounce those who say, ‘Do as I say do, not as I do’. The comments made here by you and others about Donald Trump are motivated in much the same spirit, no? Few things undermine evangelization more than hypocrites.

          • Ian Shaw September 4, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

            Comments I’ve made about Trump have reflected his character and his actions over the years.

            You threw out the number of marriages this woman has had. From other news outlets, it sounds as if she came to know Christ after these marriages. If that’s the case, what grounds do you have to claim hypocrite about her past relationships?

            Would you like your walk to be defined by your worst moments in your life prior to salvation? I don’t think any of us would!

    • Christiane Smith September 3, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

      Hi ROY,
      I can appreciate your thinking regarding Mrs. Davis. I see her as someone who has had a very troubled life, but has finally found some peace in her faith, only to become the center of a maelstrom of publicity. Of course it looks like her lawyers did not serve her, and they should be held accountable if this can be proven. Somewhere in the midst of bad legal advice and goodness-knows-what kind of education about our system of laws and our form of government, this lady attempted to let right be done as she saw it . . . and she ends up in a jail cell.
      My feeling is that a lot of people let her down, likely over a period of years, and maybe now when the dust settles, she will come into safe harbor and be surrounded by people who don’t want to use her or punish her, but will respect her as a woman of conscience, who didn’t understand to resign when her job began to demand that she violate that conscience. I hope that she will be protected in future from people with agendas (on both sides of the culture wars). She doesn’t belong in a jail cell, no. Enough already. This lady needs some peace.

      • Gus Nelson September 4, 2015 at 9:13 pm #

        Christiane and Roy: You both seem to think that somehow Ms. Davis was guided solely by her lawyers. Lawyers don’t tell people what to do, they simply explain the possible avenues for legal action and explain the possible outcomes. Clients always, always have the last word on what happens. As an attorney of 25+ years experience, I can tell you I’ve had plenty of clients disregard my advice. That is their call.

        It’s easy to bash lawyers, since lawyers are almost universally disliked. But unless you have inside information about what her lawyers told her, you might want to refrain from making judgments about them. For all you know, they advised she resign if they lost their bid to get to the Supreme Court.

        • Christiane Smith September 5, 2015 at 1:45 am #

          Hi GUS NELSON,
          thanks for the information. I had made an assumption that any client would agree to accept a Supreme Court decision at least as ‘legal’ if their lawyer took a case before the Court . . . so I did wonder if she was advised that there was a good chance of winning.

  7. James Bradshaw September 3, 2015 at 4:32 pm #

    From what I understand, she’s not just refusing to issue licenses. She’s forbidding her staff from issuing them as well (including the ones who are willing to do so).

    Let me ask this woman’s supporters: should civil clerks be free to accept or reject civil marriage licenses to heterosexuals who don’t live up to their own personal standards and religious convictions, or is this “freedom” only applicable when it’s being used against gay couples?

    • Gus Nelson September 4, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

      James: She should not be allowed to do either, although if she did deny marriage licenses to people who were previously divorced for unbiblical reasons, at least she’d be consistent!

  8. Nathan Creitz September 3, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    I hold Kim Davis accountable for her actions and the consequences. She is an official for the county and as such she must adhere to the policies and laws of that county. She is not allowed to use the office of county clerk to uphold her personal religious convictions. Resigning was her only moral play.

    I strongly reject same-sex marriage on biblical grounds and agree that it is a tragic rip in the fabric of our society. But there are better ways to show our disagreement. I would discourage Christians from acting divisively the way Kim acted and, given the laws of our land, believe that she deserves to be in jail. The travesty in this story is that Kim didn’t resign sooner but instead did great damage to her witness and the witness of the Church.

    This woman is not being persecuted for her faith in Jesus Christ. Instead, she is justly being imprisoned for breaking an oath that she made when she was sworn in to office.

    • Boris Entwhistle September 4, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

      It is very disturbing that the “Christian” responses have all encompassed their own take regarding this issue. You’d think the first place these “Christian” folks would look is God’s Word, wouldn’t you? So here is God’s word. “O Nebuchadnezzar we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O King. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18. God has a plan and He will use any given situation to His glory. My prayer is for Ms. Davis to be strong in the LORD, No matter what an unjust law or 5 perverted Supreme Court judges edict.

  9. Don Johnson September 3, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    There are believers who hold to pacifism who will not work on anything related to war and some who will refuse to work on offensive weapons, but will work on defensive weapons. In other words, if they found themselves in a situation where their faith and their job were in conflict (as they understood both of these things), they would resign. Resigning is the way out for her given her current beliefs, as she is failing to keep her oath of office.

  10. Bob Wilson September 3, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

    Denny,

    Sad maybe, but how is it a travesty that she goes to jail? What is the judge supposed to do? (Since apparently she can’t simply be fired, which would make the most sense.)

    Remember that even civil rights activists, back in the day, understood that they might go to jail (the least of their concerns), no matter that the laws they defied were unjust.

  11. buddyglass September 3, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    Here’s Scalia, writing in First Things, commenting on a similar conundrum:

    “In my view the choice for the judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation, rather than simply ignoring duly enacted, constitutional laws and sabotaging death penalty cases. He has, after all, taken an oath to apply the laws and has been given no power to supplant them with rules of his own. Of course if he feels strongly enough he can go beyond mere resignation and lead a political campaign to abolish the death penalty” and if that fails, lead a revolution. But rewrite the laws he cannot do.”

    • Johnny Mason September 4, 2015 at 12:15 am #

      yet, strangely enough, there is no duly enacted law that Davis is violating. She has applied the laws of Kentucky and Rowan County and did not supplant them with a rule of her own. The usurper of the law in this case was not Kim Davis, and it is quite sad that many Conservatives and Christians are all chomping at the bit to crucify her.

      • Ian Shaw September 4, 2015 at 8:12 am #

        That was my point above, but rulings by the USSC supersede any and all state laws.

      • buddyglass September 4, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

        You don’t consider what she’s doing “ignoring duly enacted, constitutional laws”?

        • ian Shaw September 4, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

          Kamala Davis and many other elected officials did the exact same thing regarding state bans on gay marriage, legalization of marijuana and concealed carry licenses. None of them were charged with impeachment or failure to execute their oaths of office.

          • buddyglass September 6, 2015 at 11:29 pm #

            Two wrongs don’t make a right.

        • Johnny Mason September 4, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

          no, I do not. What duly enacted law has she ignored?

  12. James Stanton September 3, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

    We should be very clear that Kim Davis was ordered to jail for ‘contempt of court’. As ridiculous as this case is, she left the Judge with little choice as she is an elected official and there is no mechanism other than impeachment by the legislature for her removal from office. The legislature, from what I have read, is out of session.

    She should have allowed her deputy clerks to perform same-sex marriages and recused herself or simply resigned from her position due to reasons of conscience.

  13. Jon Whitehead September 3, 2015 at 10:03 pm #

    I think there is a big distinction between “applying for a job you cannot do,” and “asking the employer to accommodate you when new duties are assigned to you.”

    Imagine you are hired for a job, and the employer announces new duties. If I am able to live up to the original duties — but will need an accommodation for the new duties — I don’t think I’m ethically required to resign. Must I tell the employer honestly? Yes. I should probably be willing to risk termination, if a Court says the accommodation is not required. But I’m not ethically required to resign, to avoid the employer looking bad for firing me. (“You’d save us some paperwork, buddy, if you’d go ahead and quit if you can’t work Sunday mornings…”)

    It’s beyond sad that Kentucky’s Governor is not willing to call a special session, so that Davis can be accommodated (which is the most likely outcome) or impeached. At this point, Davis is in jail, and nobody is being denied any government license. Unlike the law of the Medes and the Persians, this law can be fixed so that no one is harmed.

  14. Ian Shaw September 4, 2015 at 8:07 am #

    There is also the issue of a California lieutenant governor forcing clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in 2004 when gay marriage was banned. No one put him in jail when he violated the law.

    No liberals calling for the jailing of many Colorado state officials that openly defy federal drug bans or those federal officials that refuse to enforce the law.

    Or when California AG Kamala Harris refused to issue concealed carry licenses after a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals required the state to issue them. (She also did not enforce Prop 8 when it was passed in California as well).

    So if you tend to be on the left side of the aisle, it would seem that you can openly defy laws and nobody sees jail time. Interesting how that works only one way.

    • James Stanton September 4, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

      I’m not so sure this holds up under scrutiny. This isn’t actually a left right issue if you take the partisanship out of it. The Judge is a Republican who was appointed by GWB. He is responding only because Davis ignored the court’s order. This is an offense.

      The Judge did not jail Davis because liberals called for jailing her. The examples you mentioned require a prosecutor to charge someone with a crime or a judge to impose a punishment to be anywhere near equivalent.

  15. Dan Richardson September 4, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    I was taught to obey the government in all things, BUT when they tell you to do something that is a direct sin against Christ, I should not obey the gov’t and obey God. Our sister is doing her best in following her conscious. NOTE: Christians who say she should have quit or delegate the job to someone else are not encouraging her nor are they standing with her for the things God loves. Her job, as a whole, is an honorable one and she shouldn’t have to quit.

    If you were a cook, and the manager said, “put poison in food for these types of people”, you could say no and still claim a right to your job. You may get fired, but you don’t have to give the slightest impression that he has a right to poison people because he owns the business. You would stand for what God loves and let Christ be your refuge. I admire sister Kim’s child-like faithfulness.

    • James Stanton September 4, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

      Dan,

      Good thoughts here. I support Davis in that she’s standing up for her Christian beliefs. However, this does not entitle her to a job if she cannot meet the full requirements of that job. She does have deputy clerks who are willing, perhaps reluctantly, to administer same-sex marriages. I do not support outright rebellion to legitimate authority when there are other options and compromises to be made.

      I once swore an oath to support and defend the constitution. This did not require me to follow unlawful orders but it did require me to defend and support some things I personally found to be somewhat morally questionable.

      • Dan Richardson September 4, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

        Forcing someone to publicly affirm and approve sexual immorality is not a “morally questionable” directive nor is it a grey area – it is a clear violation against one’s conscious. Even worse, it attempts to coerce one to betray her Savior. Sadly, followers of Christ may have to rebel when offered no better option. Our sister did not bow, and either should we.

        Compromises might be okay for grey areas – but this is not. If she was only buying the paper for the certificates, that is different. But we’re talking about a Christian being forced to certify, put her name to, something Jesus hates.

        She either deserves to keep her employment or not. Shame on the officials for not finding a way to keep her on the payroll, give her another job, and respect her conscious.

        Christ did not promise us prosperity secured in compromises, but persecution secured in His prosperity – “Whatever you ask in My name, He will give it to you”.

  16. buddyglass September 4, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

    Judge nominated by GWB by the way.

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