A federal judge has granted temporary relief to one of two Kentucky county clerks still refusing to issue any marriage licenses following the Supreme Court’s nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage.
In a seemingly convoluted ruling, Aug. 17, U.S. District Judge David Bunning denied a request from Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to delay a previous ruling ordering her to issue marriage licenses to all couples regardless of gender. But Bunning, noting “emotions are running high,” ruled to delay implementation of his denial while the eastern Kentucky clerk appeals to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, the Associated Press reported. The net result is that Davis still has not been forced to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“We’re very pleased with the results at this stage,” Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, the Christian legal organization representing Davis, told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “We will file a motion with the 6th Circuit to extend the stay while we appeal.”
An attorney for one of the couples suing Davis told the Herald-Leader he has “not ruled out a motion for her to be found in contempt.” AP reported Davis faces potential fines and jail time as well as possible impeachment from her post if she loses her appeal and still refuses to issue marriage licenses.
Davis testified in federal court last month she has religious objections to authorizing same-sex marriages. Bunning, however, said Davis must perform “the duties that she took an oath to perform” regardless of her religious beliefs.
Meanwhile, a central Kentucky county clerk also has remained steadfast in his commitment not to issue any marriage licenses in order to avoid authorizing same-sex marriages. Casey Davis – no relation to Kim Davis – of Casey County has not been sued but told Louisville’s WDRB news he believes a lawsuit is a “good possibility.”
Though told by Gov. Steve Beshear to issue marriage licenses to couples regardless of gender, Davis says his right to refuse is protected by a section of the Kentucky constitution stating, “No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.”
Davis said he would rather go to jail than resign, WDRB reported.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)