With defiant Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis having been sent to jail, five of her six deputy clerks have offered to step up and begin issuing marriage licenses to same- and opposite-sex couples alike. Unfortunately for them and everyone else, she has (through her lawyer) refused a proposal that would have allowed her deputies to issue licenses under her authority, reports the New York Times. Had the defiant clerk agreed to the seemingly reasonable proposal, the judge may have considered releasing her from jail.
Early Thursday afternoon, several news outlets including ABC News reported that they expected marriage licenses to begin to be issued in Rowan County by way of deputy clerk tomorrow. This was based upon the agreement being offered to defiant clerk Kim Davis. The agreement would have allowed her deputies to issue licenses under her authority. It is yet to be determined how her defiant refusal to cooperate will impact the same-sex couples in her county. Couples who most assuredly thought that their struggle for equal treatment under the law had come to an end are now in limbo again.
While five of County Clerk Kim Davis’ six deputies agreed willingly to begin issuing marriage licenses, one among her staff refused. The lone dissenter was Nathan, the son of the defiant clerk. He, too, chose to be defiant, and declined to comply with the orders of the courts. This despite his mother being sent to jail for contempt only hours earlier.
“The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order. If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.”
Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk, has remained utterly defiant of the Supreme Court’s June decision to allow same-sex marriage nationwide. She stopped issuing marriage licenses immediately following the ruling. She was also the first clerk to be sued for her refusal to comply with the high court’s decision. Citing her religious beliefs, she continually violated the oath of office she swore to uphold only last election cycle, a choice which landed her in jail today.
Ironically to some, the defiant clerk has herself been divorced three times and married four. She also doesn’t have a history of refusing to issue divorce documents or marriage licenses to previously divorced citizens. This despite the biblical prohibitions of both divorce and remarrying following divorce. The only issue that seemed to compel her to refuse to be a County Clerk as elected is the issue of gay marriage.
Not everyone believes that the defiant clerk is out of line. Quite the contrary, she is getting some very high-level support. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has come out firmly in her defense. MSNBC reports that the conservative politician believes the Supreme Court’s June same-sex marriage ruling is not valid in the State of Kentucky without enabling legislation. He and others also took to Twitter to share their support for the defiant clerk, who is still sitting in jail this evening.
It remains to be seen how long the defiant clerk will be in jail. The judge ordered her to remain in her jail cell until she complied with the Supreme Court’s ruling to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Jail sentences for civil contempt charges are not intended to be punitive; rather they exist to compel the incarcerated to comply with the court’s authority. With the defiant clerk refusing even to allow her deputies to issue same-sex marriage licenses with her duly endowed authority, her jail time could stretch well into the foreseeable future.
The nation is waiting with bated breath to see how this story plays out. Same-sex marriage legality is uncharted territory; most specifically how it’s intended to jive in the face of constitutionally protected religious freedom. Today’s developments seem to have sent a pretty clear message, primarily that elected officials must comply with the law and enforce it equitably and in accordance with their sworn duties, regardless of their religious beliefs or affiliations.
Friday should be an interesting day for the nation, for the same-sex couples in Rowan County, for the defiant clerk, and for the judge who sent her to jail.
[Image Courtesy: Ty Wright/Getty Images]