Kentucky Court Clerk Jailed Over Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 04, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A few days ago we wondered whether a county court clerk could defy a court order, and now we have our answer: Yes, as long as you don't mind going to jail for it.

Rowan County Court Clerk Kim Davis was held in contempt of court and jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis stopped issuing any marriage licenses after the Supreme Court decided same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry.

She Fought the Law...

You have to give Davis credit for consistency: her refusal to issue marriage licenses applied to both heterosexual and homosexual couples and she has stood fast in the face of gubernatorial and judicial orders to comply with the Supreme Court, and the thrice-divorced apostolic Christian appears ready to remain in jail for however long it takes.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning wasn't moved. He held Davis in contempt of court, and sentenced her to the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Kentucky: "The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order," the judge said. "If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that's what potentially causes problems."

...And the Law Won.

With Davis out of the way, five deputy clerks of her office have reached an agreement with the judge to issue licenses without her. Bunning warned them, "I would hate to have to come back to Ashland." James Yates and William Smith were the first of many same-sex couples to receive marriage licenses in Rowan County this morning, amid throngs of protestors on both sides of the issue.

Davis's attorneys maintain she will be steadfast in her refusal to do her job, and others have suggested work-arounds like removal the county clerk's name from the licenses. In the meantime, sorry county clerks -- you need to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Or sit in jail.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard