Kim Davis, the now-notorious Rowan County clerk, is working on her appeal from her jail cell this Labor Day. While much of America is enjoying a three-day holiday weekend, Davis’ legal team is on the clock, attempting to secure her release, says CNN.
The Rowan County clerk’s office began issuing same-sex marriage licenses last Friday for the first time since June’s historic Supreme Court ruling. The ruling declared marriage a civil right, and the high court’s decision immediately forged sweeping changes in the nation’s marriage laws. Ultimately, it was responsible for legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Kim Davis immediately refused to issue any marriage licenses, citing her religious opposition to same-sex marriage. She became the first county clerk in the U.S. to be sued for her refusal to follow the Supreme Court’s edict.
“While most Americans are enjoying the extended holiday weekend with family and friends, Kim Davis sits in isolation for the fourth day in jail, we are working through the holiday to secure Kim’s freedom.”
Kim Davis fought an extensive legal battle in an attempt to be exempted from the decision of the highest court in the land, but was ultimately unsuccessful. She was ordered by U.S. District Judge David Bunning to begin issuing licenses by the end of the of business day, August 31 (last Monday), USA Today reported. Davis continued to refuse to comply with the court’s orders, still citing “deeply held religious beliefs.” At this point, the ACLU’s legal team filed a motion demanding that she be held in contempt of court. During her contempt hearing, it was discovered that she was also refusing to allow her clerks to issue marriage licenses.
Based upon her refusal to follow the court order, and the fact that she was willfully instructing her subordinates to do so as well, she was found to be in contempt of court and ordered to be immediately jailed until she agreed to comply.
The efforts of Kim Davis and her legal team to appeal her jailing for contempt of court come in the midst of a “Free Kim Davis” rally. The event, which drew about 150 supporters, was held outside of the jail where she’s currently being held. It was a stark reminder that the Davis case has once again polarized a nation deeply divided over the issue of gay rights. Kim Davis’ fourth husband, Joe Davis, was front and center among her supporters.
While Davis maintains that her refusal to follow the law in her capacity as a duly elected and paid county clerk is due to her deeply held religious convictions, there are many who question that defense based upon her personal history. It’s become widely reported that she is currently on her fourth marriage, despite Biblical prohibitions relating to both divorce and remarriage after divorce. In the same vein, Kim Davis has also never refused to issue divorce documents (prior to June’s same-sex marriage ruling). This contradiction between her behavior and her claims of devoutness has led to widespread speculation about her true motives.
It’s important to clarify that while Kim Davis, her legal team, and her many and varied supporters are calling her incarceration an affront on religious liberty and freedom, she was not incarcerated for her religious beliefs. She was jailed for contempt of court for defiantly refusing to follow a duly appointed judge’s lawful order.
It’s also important to note that Judge Bunning is a staunch Catholic who was appointed by George W. Bush. Personally, he’s no supporter of same-sex marriage. Professionally, he understands the vital importance of enforcing and upholding the secular law of the land first and foremost as a representative of the U.S. government. He has been referenced as saying that his oath of office trumped his personal religious beliefs.
“Her good faith belief is simply not a viable defense.”
Judge Bunning has arguably tried, in good faith, to give the embattled Davis an avenue for being released from jail. On Friday, she was offered the opportunity for release by authorizing her deputies to issue licenses under her authority as County Clerk. She steadfastly refused the compromise. Regardless, on Friday morning five of her six deputies began to issue marriage licenses to her long-suffering constituency. The lone holdout on her staff was and continues to be Nathan, her own son.
Kim Davis’ attorney went on record to state that the licenses were invalid when issued in her name without her authority, says NPR.
“They are not worth the paper that they are written on.”
On Monday, Newsweek is reporting that the legal team surrounding Kim Davis is requesting the appeals court to specifically allow Davis (and presumably other clerks sharing her convictions) the right to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Currently, all clerks are required to issue marriage licenses as part of their express job description. Specifically, they are asking for Kim Davis to be given an exemption from the “governor’s mandate that all county clerks issue marriage licenses.”
It remains to be seen how the appellate court is going to handle this case. In the wake of June’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, the courts have been less than friendly toward dissenters. Davis herself was most definitely on the receiving end of some less than favorable court decisions recently, rulings which ultimately led to her current incarceration.
Since Kim Davis was incarcerated last Friday, other government employees have made the news for their refusal to participate in same-sex marriages. The outcome of her appeal will certainly help set the precedent by which other agents of the U.S. judicial system are held accountable for their failure to uphold the secular law of the land.
Kim Davis has been compared to Rosa Parks by some, to Rosa’s bus driver by others.
Regardless of which side you’re on, same-sex marriage has become the defining civil rights issue of this decade, possibly this generation. The way the Kim Davis appeal is handled will have a ripple effect on everyone for years to come.
[Image Credit Ty Wright/Getty Images]