The Oath Keepers, the armed group that attracted national attention after a protracted standoff in 2014 with the Bureau of Land Management at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch, has announced they are providing anti-gay Kentucky clerk Kim Davis with “protection.”
The Oath Keepers say they are willing to protect Davis from being arrested and detained by U.S. Marshals if she continues to defy court orders to allow her office to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes said in a statement posted to the Oath Keeper’s website on Wednesday, September 8 that he had contacted Davis’ lawyer Mat Staver, with the Liberty Counsel, and offered to provide armed guards to protect Kim Davis from being detained by U.S. Marshals.
“People should consider her under our protection,” Rhodes said. “We’ll make sure that our people are keeping a close eye on the situation and we’re going have boots on the ground to keep watch regardless, because this judge needs to understand that he’s not going be able to just go grab this lady whenever he feels like it.”
“People should consider her under our protection. We’ll make sure that our people are keeping a close eye on the situation.”
Right Wing Watch reports that before Davis was released from jail on Tuesday, Oath Keepers had planned to picket the home of U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who ordered Davis’ arrest and detention for refusing to comply with court orders to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
The offer from the Oath Keepers to provide protection for Davis comes after Bunning ordered Davis released from jail on Tuesday. She was released after six days in jail.
In the statement, Rhodes said the position of the Oath Keepers has nothing to do with gay marriage but that they were acting on the conviction that Davis’ detention, ordered by the federal judge after she was held in contempt, was illegal.
“Now we see the rise of an imperial judiciary that not only legislates from the bench but is attempting to expand their ‘contempt’ power to likewise swallow up our Bill of Rights and circumvent jury trial.”
According to Rhodes, Judge Bunning “grossly overstepped his bounds and violated Davis’ due process rights and in particular her right to a jury trial.”
He said he would be in Kentucky to direct operations and that Oath Keepers were being forced to act because the Rowan County sheriff who should have stopped U.S. Marshals from arresting and detaining Davis failed to “do his job.”
“As far as we’re concerned, this is not over,” Rhodes said, “and this judge needs to be put on notice that his behavior is not going to be accepted and we’ll be there to stop it and intercede ourselves if we have to. If the sheriff, who should be interceding, is not going to do his job and the governor is not going to do the governor’s job of interceding, then we’ll do it.”
“As far as we’re concerned, this is not over, and this judge needs to be put on notice that his behavior is not going to be accepted…”
After Davis was released on Tuesday, her lawyers reportedly told CNN that she would once again violate court order by forcing her deputies to stop issuing marriage certificates to gay couples. Bunning had released her on the condition that “she would not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”
It appears from a teleconference uploaded to YouTube by Oath Keepers National (see YouTube below) that Jackson County Sheriff (Kentucky) Denny Peyman agreed with Rhodes that the Rowan County sheriff should have stopped U.S. Marshals from arresting Davis.
During the teleconference with Rhodes and two other local Oath Keepers — Missouri Oath Keeper John Karriman and West Virginia Oath Keeper Allen Landieri — Peyman suggested that Rhodes should see the Rowan County sheriff and inform him about his duty to stop U.S. Marshals from arresting and jailing Davis.
Peyman told Rhodes that if he were the Rowan County sheriff, he would have blocked an attempt by U.S. Marshals to arrest Davis.
However, some have argued that Rhodes and the Oath Keepers might be in need of better legal advice on the matter. With regard to his comment that Bunning had “grossly overstepped his bounds and violated Davis’ due process rights and in particular her right to jury trial,” Rhodes appears to willfully ignore the implication of the fact that Davis was jailed after Judge Bunning held her in contempt of court.
As Raw Story’s Bethania Markus notes, contempt of court has never involved jury trials since it is not a criminal charge or civil complaint. The law empowers judges to punish citizens who disobey court orders through fines and detention.
The notion that a contempt of court should be determined by a jury trial is one that will stump many legal experts.
Talking Points Memo notes that it is still unclear how the judge will respond if Davis tries to prevent her clerks from issuing marriage licenses when she returns to work. But if the Oath Keepers attempt to stop U.S. Marshals from carrying out their lawful duties, they could be guilty of an offense punishable by a fine or an imprisonment.