A still frame of a video showing Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis rejecting couples seeking marriage licenses on Sept. 1. (Video: Hillary Thornton, WKYT.)
Kim Davis has been taken into custody and held in contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Ky.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning on Thursday afternoon found the clerk in contempt for refusing to comply with a previous ruling he had issued, The Courier-Journal reported. Davis, who appeared in federal court in Ashland, Ky., was taken into custody by a federal marshal, with Bunning saying she will be released as soon as she is willing to comply.
Bunning said that fines were not enough to force Davis into compliance, adding that allowing Davis to defy his previous ruling would create a “ripple effect.”
“Her good-faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” he said. “Oaths mean things…. [The court] cannot condone willful disobedience. If you give people opportunity to choose what orders they follow, that is what potentially causes problems.”
Davis responded that she could not obey the order to issue the licenses, claiming that God’s law trumps the court’s authority. “My conscience will not allow it,” she told Bunning. “God’s moral law convicts me and conflicts with my duties.”
Bunning had issued a preliminary injunction last month on behalf of four Rowan County couples — two straight and two gay — who were unable to obtain marriage licenses because of an administrative decision by Davis. In his ruling, Bunning wrote that Davis’ “religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk.”
Davis’ opposition is based on her Apostolic Christian beliefs that marriage is reserved as the union of one man and one woman. Following the Supreme Court’s legalization of marriage equality nationwide, Davis refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples. But, wary of being accused of discriminating against gay and lesbian couples, she decided to instead refuse to issue marriage licenses to any couples, regardless of their sexual orientation. She then claimed that, because her name appears on the marriage license as the official county clerk, she cannot allow any licenses to be granted in the county, even if she does not physically issue them herself.
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