Judge says he will release county clerk when she agrees to issue certificates
The woman who refused to back down and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was found in contempt of court Thursday, USA Today reported. U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning placed the Rowan County Clerk in the custody of U.S. marshals until she complies with an order to issue marriage licenses.
“The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order,” said Bunning, who had previously ordered Davis and her clerks to issue the certificates. “If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.”
In the court proceeding, Davis was asked how she defined marriage.
“Marriage is between one man and one woman,” she replied, before a lawyer asked her whether she had “the ability to believe marriage is anything else.”
“No,” she replied.
Davis rejected a proposal that would have allowed her deputies to grant same-sex marriage licenses. Had she consented, the judge would have considered releasing her from custody.
Since the US Supreme Court ruled in June that states may not forbid gays from “marrying,” Davis has declined to issue marriage licenses, citing the conflict with her Christian faith. To avoid a charge of discrimination, Davis, a member of the Apostolic Church, also declined licenses to opposite-sex couples.
More than 100 protesters on both sides of the contentious issue gathered outside the courthouse Thursday.
“If we want to live like Sodom and Gomorrah, God will punish us like Sodom and Gomorrah,” one demonstrator shouted.
Liberty Counsel, whose lawyers are representing Davis, said in a court filing Wednesday that she should not be found in contempt because lesser measures could achieve the same goal. Those include authorizing the state to issue marriage licenses or allowing someone other than a county’s clerk to sign them.
“Today, for the first time in history, an American citizen has been incarcerated for having the belief of conscience that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and she’s been ordered to stay there until she’s willing to change her mind, until she’s willing to change her conscience about what that belief is,” said one of Davis’ lawyers, Roger Gannam. “This is unprecedented in American law.”
Davis has become a cause celebre for many who are opposed to same-sex “marriage,” and several presidential candidates weighed in on the controversy, as the New York Times reported:
Rand Paul, the Republican presidential candidate and a senator from Kentucky, said it was “absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberties.”
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, another Republican candidate, said the jailing of Ms. Davis “removes all doubt of the criminalization of Christianity in our country.”
“We must defend religious liberty and never surrender to judicial tyranny,” Mr. Huckabee said, adding that “the Supreme Court is not the Supreme branch and it’s certainly not the Supreme Being.”
The Times quoted White House press secretary Josh Earnest as saying, “Every public official is subject to the rule of law. No one is above the law. That applies to the president of the United States and it applies to the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, as well.”
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