—Kim Davis, county clerk of Rowan County, Ky., speaking at a pre-election candidate forum on Tuesday night in Morehead, Ky. At the forum, Davis defended her decision to go to jail for contempt of court rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, claiming that she was upholding Kentucky’s state ban on same-sex marriage, reports the Associated Press.
Davis, a former Democrat now running as a Republican for a second four-year term, claims her decision to stop issuing marriage licenses altogether was done in a way that she would not be discriminating solely against same-sex couples.
However, at the same time, she did not want marriage licenses bearing her name or title to be granted to same-sex couples lest she be seen as endorsing same-sex marriage, which she opposes based on her religious beliefs.
Aided by the right-wing legal firm Liberty Counsel, Davis continued to appeal rulings against her by claiming allowing the licenses to go out with her name on them violated her religious freedom.
Following his victory in 2015, Gov. Matt Bevin (R) issued an executive order removing the names of county clerks from all state marriage licenses. Although there was some question about the validity of the licenses, the issue was finally resolved when the state legislature passed a law identical to Bevin’s order.
At Tuesday’s forum, Davis insisted that she had an obligation to defend the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, even though most legal experts acknowledge that the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges effectively gutted such bans.
“I have had many people ask me, ‘Why didn’t you do your job? Why didn’t you do your job? Why didn’t you just quit?’ Well if you will read our Kentucky state statutes, they still say that marriage is between one man and one woman. That’s what we voted in,” Davis said to rounds of applause from the audience. “Our Constitution has not changed.”
A federal judge later ruled that, due to Davis’s actions, Kentucky taxpayers must foot the bill for $225,000 in legal fees incurred by the four couples — both gay and straight — who sued Davis when they were unable to obtain licenses.
Davis’s Democratic opponent, Elwood Caudill, Jr., said that, if elected, he would treat everyone equally because he took an oath to “uphold the law of the land.”
“That’s not my choice. I didn’t vote [gay marriage] in. But I have to go by the law,” he said. “You have to issue what the law tells you to do.”