Godly Kentucky clerk sparks lawsuit
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, pictured above with her attorney Roger Gannam, is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Unions for refusing to issue marriage licences one day after the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriages nationwide.
ACLU initiated the lawsuit on behalf of two gay couples and two heterosexual couples.
According to this report, Davis testified this week that she prayed and fasted for months before reaching the decision. She said she’s a member of a local Apostolic church, that she believes the Bible is “God’s holy word” and that it defines marriage as strictly between one man and one woman.
Democratic Governor Steve Beshear instructed county clerks to begin issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples immediately. At least two clerks refused. Clerks are elected officials. They cannot be removed from office unless impeached by the state legislature.
The couples have asked US District Judge David Bunning to order Davis to issue the marriage licences.
Bunning, who did not rule after the Monday hearing, could order Davis to issue licences, and then fine her or put her in jail if she refuses. But he cannot not remove her from office.
Questioned by Dan Canon, an attorney for the couples seeking marriage licences, Davis said she could not answer on whether she thought clerks could use their religious beliefs to withhold marriage licenses from interracial couples or couples who have been divorced.
I want to understand what your concept of discretion of a county clerk is. How far does it go?.
Davis wants Governor Beshear to call a special session of the state legislature to pass a law protecting county clerks, possibly by allowing people to receive marriage licences from the state online, but Beshear has declined to call the legislature back, citing the $60,000 per day cost to taxpayers.
Bunning said the earliest he could rule would be mid-August. But it’s unclear how Davis – who has already ignored broader orders from the US Supreme Court and the governor – would react to a judge’s order to issue marriage licences.
I’ll deal with that when the time comes.
It’s reported here that Daniel Canon said after the hearing that Davis’ reasoning, if applied statewide, would create chaos, allowing anyone to deny a licence at any time based on personal religious beliefs. He called it an “unsustainable policy”.
Why should the taxpaying citizens of Rowan County have to go anyplace else aside from their own county to get a marriage license. Why should they be held to a different standard than anybody else?
But Gannam claimed:
This case is not about these plaintiffs’ desires to get married. The case is about the plaintiffs desire to force Kim Davis to approve and authorize their marriage in violation of her constitutionally protected religious beliefs.
During Monday’s hearing, Davis repeatedly cited religious rights under the First Amendment in her defence. She testified that she attends church “every time the doors are open” and performs a Bible study at a local jail once a week.
After working in the clerk’s office for nearly 30 years, she said she has never denied a licence on religious grounds or asked applicants about relationships she might find sinful.
Davis claimed that she is still following the Constitution because it protects expression of religion, and she noted that the Kentucky Constitution limited marriage to one man and one woman when she was elected.
But under cross-examination, she struggled to answer questions about who has the final say in interpreting the Constitution, saying “I’m not a lawyer.”
When asked if the Supreme Court holds final authority, she answered “I suppose.”
Michael Biel, a demonstrator from Rowan County who was out in support of the couples, said Davis needs to do the job she was elected to do.
She was not elected to be a preacher. She was not elected to bring her brand of religion into the courthouse, which is what she has done. Her particular interpretation of her religion is in violation of my interpretation of my religion.