Metro Weekly

Kim Davis files appeal with 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

County clerks' lawyers argue that district court's rulings against her be reversed

Kim Davis' booking photo (Photo: Carter County Detention Center).

Kim Davis’ booking photo (Photo: Carter County Detention Center).

Lawyers for Kentucky clerk Kim Davis have filed a brief asking that a federal appeals court reverse decisions against Davis that eventually resulted in her being jailed for five days for contempt of court. Davis was held in contempt after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing her personal religious beliefs, but also attempted to prevent her deputies from issuing licenses.

In their filing with the 6th Circuit, Davis’ attorneys claim that U.S. District Judge David Bunning’s decisions against Davis violated her religious liberty. That filing was subsequently uploaded to the Equality Case Files, a website for a nonprofit that tracks LGBT-related cases going through the courts.

“From the outset of this case, Davis has consistently argued that there were multiple alternatives by which her undisputed sincerely-held religious beliefs protected by the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment, both of which predate and survive Obergefell, could be accommodated while simultaneously ensuring individuals who are qualified to marry under Kentucky law may obtain valid marriage licenses in Rowan County,” writes Jonathan Christman, one of Davis’ lawyers.

“But in a rush to judgment that promoted expediency over due process, the district court’s original injunction in this dispute tramples upon Davis’ religious rights in subjugation to Plaintiffs’ ‘preference’ for a marriage license authorized by a particular person in a particular county,” Christman writes. “Under the circumstances here, Plaintiffs’ purported rights should not trump Davis’ undisputed sincerely-held religious beliefs. Because this dispute involves core constitutional and statutory freedoms, and a complex and untested interplay between them, there is a significant public interest in resolving this conflict within a legal framework that can be applied to other, and likely, future conflicts.”

According to the brief, Liberty Counsel is asking the appeals court to reverse four of Bunning’s decisions, including the order that Davis issue licenses and the decision to hold her in contempt.

Davis has also filed a countersuit against Gov. Steve Beshear (D), both for an order to all county clerks to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses regardless of their personal beliefs, and for refusing to call a special session of the legislature to pass legislation that would provide special exemptions or religious accommodations for county clerks.

“With Davis’ sincerity and honest conviction unchallenged in the district court, the substantial burden imposed on Davis through the SSM Mandate could not be more clear,” Christman writes. “In Gov. Beshear’s view, Davis must either comply with his SSM Mandate, or resign from office. … Thus, Gov. Beshear is imposing a direct and severe pressure on Davis by the SSM Mandate, forcing Davis ‘to choose between following the precepts of her religion and forfeiting benefits [her job], on the one hand, and abandoning one of the precepts of her religion in order to accept work [keep her job], on the other hand.’

“This Hobson’s choice places undue pressure on Davis to choose between her job and her religion. The SSM Mandate demands that she either fall in line (her conscience be damned) or leave office (her livelihood and job for three-decades in the clerk’s office be damned).”

Both Beshear and the ACLU, which initially sued Davis on behalf of two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples when she was refusing to issue any marriage licenses to any party in Rowan County, will be expected to file their own briefs responding to Davis’ appeal in less than a month.

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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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