Metro Weekly

ACLU again pushes court to take action against Kim Davis

Lawyers for plaintiffs claim Gov. Beshear's office cannot rule on validity of altered marriage licenses

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear - Photo: Gage Skidmore
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear – Photo: Gage Skidmore

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Kentucky filed a brief last Friday alleging — as they had previously in a separate September filing — that Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis violated a judge’s order by altering marriage licenses issued in Rowan County in order to avoid having her name, title or the name of the county that Davis works for on any marriage licenses. The move by Davis, which occurred after she returned to work from a five-day stint in jail, was done so that Davis, an Apostolic Christian, would be able to avoid being associated with the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

In its brief, the ACLU and ACLU of Kentucky asked the court to enforce its previous orders against Davis, which could result in more jail time if she is found to be noncompliant.

“Davis’ alterations to the marriage licenses currently being issued by the Rowan County Clerk’s office amount to a last-ditch attempt to craft an accommodation for herself — one that this Court, the Sixth Circuit, and the Supreme Court all found that she was not entitled to — by engaging in self-help at the expense of Rowan County couples,” the brief reads. “As Governor Beshear has now recognized, Davis’ actions have created considerable uncertainty regarding the legality of the altered marriage licenses. They impose significant and ongoing harm on Rowan County couples who are legally eligible to marry but now face doubt and fear that a marriage solemnized pursuant to an altered marriage license could be held invalid at some unknown time in the future. And Davis’ actions effectively brand the altered licenses with a stamp of animus against gay people.”

The filing follows a brief filed by lawyers for outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear (D), who the ACLU says has acknowledged that the altered marriage licenses being issued by Rowan County do not comply with current Kentucky law. The ACLU argues that Beshear’s office lacks the authority to determine whether the licenses, as issued, are invalid, and, as such, requests that the court step in and rule on the validity of the licenses.

“We continue to fight for the loving couples who hold marriage licenses of questionable validity and for those who are waiting to legalize their unions until this issue is resolved,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Project, said in a statement. “Kim Davis has been out of line and in violation of the law since last June. No one should be treated differently under the law because of the religious beliefs of a public official.”

But Mat Staver, an attorney for Liberty Counsel, which is representing Davis, told the Associated Press that the incoming governor, Matt Bevin, previously promised to issue an administrative order to remove the names of county clerks from all marriage licenses issued in Kentucky, which would allow Davis to distance herself from same-sex marriages without risking jail time. As a result, Staver has argued, there is no need for the court to act or attempt to discipline Davis. According to Staver, Bevin’s proposed order would “protect the religious convictions and conscience of Kim Davis.”

 

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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