Defiant Kentucky Clerk Taken Into Federal Custody

AP

Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue gay marriage licenses, has been found in contempt of court and taken into federal custody.

According to AP, U.S. District Judge David Bunning said Thursday that Davis would be held in jail until she complied with the previous court orders to begin granting the marriage licenses.

“The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order,” Judge Bunning said, according to the New York Times. “If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.”

She was not in handcuffs when she was led into custody, AP reported, and said “thank you” before a U.S. marshal escorted her out of the court room.

During Thursday’s hearing, Davis testified for 20 minutes about her Christian faith and told the court “You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul,” according to the AP report.

Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, has repeatedly refused to grant marriage licenses to all couples based on her religious beliefs that oppose gay marriage, despite the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to intervene in her favor. She was sued by a group of gay and straight couples in July and a federal judge ordered that she begin issuing the licenses.

Tuesday, at the request of the couples’ lawyers, a district judge ordered that Davis and her staff appear for a contempt of court hearing due to her refusal to follow the court ruling.

The lawyers had asked Judge Bunning to fine rather than jail her, according to the New York Times. However, the judge ordered that she be held in custody until she agreed to start issuing the licenses, saying he was concerned about a “ripple effect,” USA Today reported.

“Her good-faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” the judge said, according to USA Today. “Oaths mean things.”

Her six deputy clerks were given a half hour to decide if they would issue the licenses or possibly join Davis in jail, according to LEX 18 News. Five of the six decided to follow the order to grant the marriage license. The deputy clerk who has not agreed to follow the judge’s orders is Davis’ son, WOWK 13 reported.

Davis, however, said she would not authorize the deputies to issue the licenses, prompting the judge to order she spend the night in July, WOWK 13 reported. The clerk’s office will begin issuing marriage licenses Friday morning nonetheless, WOWK 13 said, but the judge warned that without Davis’ approval those licenses may not be valid.

The court battle has already become an issue in the 2016 race, with the GOP field divided as to whether to support Davis’ refusal to grant the marriage licenses over her beliefs.

In response to Thursday’s decision to hold her in contempt of court, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said, “Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubts about the criminalization of Christianity in this country.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) also rushed to Davis’ defense: “I think it’s absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberties,” he said on CNN.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued a statement calling for “every lover of liberty to stand for Kim Davis.”

“Kim Davis should not be in jail. We are a country founded on Judeo-Christian values, founded by those fleeing religious oppression and seeking a land where we could worship God and live according to our faith, without being imprisoned for doing so,” he said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that he hadn’t spoken to President Obama about the results of the hearing but that, “On principle, the success of our democracy depends on the rule of law. And there is no public official that is above the rule of law.”

Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton also signaled she supported the judge’s decision, tweeting, “Marriage equality is the law of the land. Officials should be held to their duty to uphold the law—end of story.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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