A federal judge ordered the release of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from the Carter County Detention Center on Tuesday after placing her in jail following her defiance of a court order issued by that very judge.
The New York Times reports that U.S. District Judge David Bunning of the Eastern District of Kentucky issued a two-page order saying he would release Davis because he was satisfied that her office was “fulfilling its obligation to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.” Bunning previously ordered Davis into custody last week after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, and refused to allow her deputies to do the same.
On Friday, after Davis was placed in jail, six same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples — all of whom were unable to marry after Davis adopted a policy refusing to issue any marriage licenses — obtained licenses from Davis’ deputies, with the exception of her son, Nathan Davis. Bunning has ordered Davis not to interfere with any same-sex license being issued, saying that any interference would be interpreted as “a violation” of his release order. If she does violate that order, she could end up back in prison.
But just because some same-sex couples have been able to wed in Rowan County doesn’t mean the fight is over. Prior to being led away to the Carter County Detention Center, Davis said she did not authorize any employee to issue marriage licenses in her absence. As a result, her lawyers have since questioned whether those licenses are valid. However, Rowan County officials insist the licenses will be recognized as legitimate.
Davis was scheduled to meet on Tuesday with GOP presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, who have seized upon Davis’ imprisonment as a violation of her religious liberty in an effort to woo conservative voters. Davis has said her refusal to grant the licenses stems from her beliefs as an Apostolic Christian. She and her lawyers previously asked Bunning to order Gov. Steve Beshear (D) to accommodate Davis by removing her name and official title from all marriage licenses in Rowan County, a solution she feels would work best for a number of other county clerks who also object to same-sex marriage.