A district judge ordered the release Tuesday of Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who had been jailed for refusing to comply with a court order to issue same-sex marriage licenses, on the condition that she not interfere with her deputy clerks performing those duties for her.
Davis cited “God’s authority” in her act of defiance against federal courts — making her a flashpoint in the national debate over “religious liberty.” She counts among her supporters GOP presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee.
District Court judge David Bunning had held Davis in contempt of court for refusing to comply with an order to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples. Davis spent five nights in jail. During that time, five of her six deputy clerks had begun issuing marriage licenses in her absence. The sixth, who continues to refuse, is Davis’ son.
At the time, Davis through her attorneys asserted that these licenses were “void” and “not worth the paper they’re written on.” In fact, Kentucky attorney general Jack Conway, district judge Bunning, and the Rowan County attorney have all asserted that the licenses are legitimate.
However, in issuing these licenses — albeit without Davis’ name on them — her deputy clerks, in effect, resolved the original contempt order that landed Davis behind bars in the first place, and paved the way for her release.
The clerk’s office was, according to Bunning’s order to release Davis, “fulfilling its obligation to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples” and therefore, “the Court’s prior contempt sanction against Defendant Davis is hereby lifted.”
Davis’ freedom is contingent upon her continuing to stand aside while her deputies do her job for her. According to the order, Davis “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples. If Defendant Davis should interfere in any way with their issuance, that will be considered a violation of this Order and appropriate sanctions will be considered.”
The judge’s order further requires that the five deputy clerks who had been issuing licenses in her absence file status reports every two weeks to demonstrate their compliance, and that Davis has stopped enforcing her “no marriage licenses” policy.
“God showed up”
Upon Davis’ release Tuesday afternoon, a crowd that had assembled to support her took on the air of a triumphant church revival — with white crosses (and at least one Confederate flag) waving in the air, along with signs proclaiming the primacy of states’ rights and God’s law.
Her attorney Mathew Staver affirmed that not only were those licenses issued by her deputy clerks invalid, but those responsible for issuing the licenses without authorization could face “criminal penalties.”
Staver told the crowd that Davis planned to return to work. “She’ll do her job good,” he said. “She’ll serve the people…and she’ll also be loyal to God, and she’s not going to violate her conscience.”
Former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee praised her for following her conscience and her God. “We do not want to see this country become the smoldering remains” of its former glory, he said. He also claimed that the Supreme Court had no right to “make the law.”
“We will not surrender to the tyranny of one branch of the government,” he said.
God’s intervention is the only reason the U.S. has lasted this long, he claimed, going on to quote Forrest Gump, the mentally challenged fictional character of literature and film: “God showed up” in the form of Kim Davis, he said.
To the soaring intro of the song “Eye of the Tiger,” a sobbing Davis joined Huckabee on stage. “We serve the Living God who knows where each and every one of us is at!” Davis cried to rapturous cheers and applause.
Screengrab via Fox News
This article has been updated.