Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis appearing at the Federal Courthouse in Covington.

Judge: Ky. clerk must issue marriage licenses for gay couples

Video courtesy of USA Today

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that — despite religious objections — Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or risk setting a “dangerous precedent.”

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis appearing at the Federal Courthouse in Covington. Photo by Mike Wynn, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis appearing at the Federal Courthouse in Covington. Photo by Mike Wynn, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal.

But despite a federal injunction, one same-sex couple said they had already been turned away on Thursday morning.

In a 28-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning found that Davis, an Apostolic Christian, has interfered with a now-fundamental right to marry by denying licenses to four couples based on her private religious beliefs.

READ: After gay marriage, expect conservative amnesia

He wrote that the state is not restricting her religious activities or asking her to condone same-sex unions when signing off on marriage forms, and her convictions have no bearing on a “purely legal” task. Bunning granted a preliminary injunction against Davis.

“She may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County jail,” Bunning wrote. “She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do. However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County clerk.”

Roger Gannam, an attorney with the Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom organization representing Davis, said Wednesday that the group has already filed a notice of appeal and plans to request a stay on the ruling.

READ: With Presbyterians in the yes column, mainline Protestants solidify gay marriage support

He argued that the opinion amounts to government coercion, forcing Davis to violate sincerely held beliefs. “It seems like the ruling said there’s a new right to same-sex marriage and it trumps all others,” he said.

When asked if Davis would begin issuing licenses, Gannam said he hopes to obtain a stay before any more are requested.

But David Moore, who is trying to marry his partner of 17 years, David Ermold, said he visited the clerk's office early Thursday (Aug. 13), but a deputy clerk told him that the office is still not issuing the forms.

"We came here as anyone should be able to do because there is an injunction," he told the Courier-Journal in Louisville. "Anyone should be able to come in, walk in there and get a marriage license."

READ: A Catholic priest’s viral Facebook post on gay marriage, and what it means 

Meanwhile, Dan Canon, an attorney for the couples, called the opinion a “total victory” for his clients and the rule of law.

“It reaffirms the idea that we’ve been trying to stress all along, which is that individual elected officials are not allowed to govern according to their own private religious beliefs,” he said. “That’s just not the way we do things in America.”

Davis began refusing licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that all couples have a right to marry regardless of gender. In court, she argued that issuing the forms under her name would violate her religious beliefs, even if a deputy clerk performs the task in her stead.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued on behalf of two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples, argued that Davis violated their constitutional rights. The couples said they live, work and pay taxes in Rowan County and shouldn’t have to drive elsewhere to obtain the paperwork.

Bunning agreed, writing Wednesday that the couples have strong ties to Rowan County and an understandable preference to obtain licenses there.

“For other Rowan County residents, it may be more than a preference,” he wrote. “There are individuals in this rural region of the state who simply do not have the physical, financial or practical means to travel.”

Bunning, a conservative judge who was appointed by President George W. Bush, also found that marriage forms do not constitute an endorsement: Instead, a clerk simply certifies that information is accurate and that couples are qualified to marry under state law.

Davis is among a number of clerks in Kentucky who have cited concerns over issuing licenses, and Bunning argues that siding with Davis would allow other clerks to follow her approach, in what could become a “substantial interference” in half of the state.

Canon, who is working with the ACLU, said attorneys have no plans at this time to sue clerks in other counties who are denying licenses, but anyone refused a license would have strong grounds for a suit.

(Wynn reports for the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky.)



  1. This has never been about not wanting to participate in an event that goes contrary to religious belief. This is about the manufactured right to demonstrate their disapproval of gay people and their marriages all cloaked in ready-to-wear Christianity as “religious freedom.”

    This particular case is simple. A judge has ruled that a civil servant must do their job to keep their job. Duh.

  2. When she’s fired or held in contempt I have little doubt the Christian right will use it to fuel their pathological need to feel persecuted.

  3. Of course. Liberty Counsel and other enablers of frivolous lawsuits asserting that discrimination is religious freedom, have been covering costs for these wastes of judicial resources.

  4. County Clerk Kim Davis sincerely believes that granting a marriage license to a same-sex couple would take away from the sanctity of her first, second, third and fourth marriages.

  5. “Davis began refusing licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that all couples have a right to marry regardless of gender. In court, she argued that issuing the forms under her name would violate her religious beliefs, even if a deputy clerk performs the task in her stead.”

    The childishness of her stance, let alone the hypocrisy, should embarrass all Christians who oppose same-sex marriage. I know 5 year olds with a better understanding of responsibility and maturity.

  6. Eric, these anti-gay Christians are beyond embarrassment, though not beyond grifting. You need only look at Gene Schaerr’s argument, bought and paid for by Utah’s governor, against gay marriage. Gay people getting married will lead to 900,000 more conservative Christians getting abortions.

    But, as I said, not beyond grifting. Liberty council has advised davis to go ahead and defy a federal court order before they asked for a stay on it. When she goes to jail or is heavily fined for contempt of court, they will use her fake example of even faker Chrstian persecution to raise even more money to convince even stupider people to do the same. I believe they have lost virtually every case they have taken up.

    They’re laughing all the way to the bank, as more and more fake martyrs step up and take the real consequences of listening to the likes of Mat (only one T, as two sounds kinda gay) Staver, busy staving off unemployment.

  7. Why can’t Davie and Davie just go somewhere else? I think its funny that the clerk is still obeying her conscious, defying the gay demand that she service them. She’ll lose her job,of course, gays have no compassion for others, and the rainbow flag can finally fly high in Louisville thanks to D & D.
    Gays have been technically breaking the law since Creation, so you would think they’d understand another person who stands their ground on their beliefs. You go, Kim, make them sweat a little longer. I’m sure their “marriage” is already consummated. They are vying for a “Rosa Parks” position in gay history.

  8. Translation: Why can’t those Jews find another neighborhood to live in?

    talk about NO COMPASSION FOR OTHERS? Certainly neither davis nor you are interested.

    I’m a Christian of a certain type– the kind that declares some people’s marriages are immoral, even though I’ve been married FOUR TIMES. I don’t have to do my job as long as I can claim it’s about my “sincere religious beliefs” about how SOME OTHER people should live, no matter how little I apply that to anyone else BUT those people. I don’t have to obey the law, but can claim Christian exceptionalism. I can pretend that even though all I am doing is certifying the proper paperwork has been done, I am somehow participating in their “evil” wedding, and giving my approval to it, even though it wasn’t requested.

    and when I’ve been slapped down by everyone except the religious bigots, I’ll go on to proclaim how my religious freedom has been violated, all the while I am busy violating the religious freedom of…

  9. When the clerk is in Heaven for her faith in God’s
    law and love, the sodomites will fry in torment.
    Read the Bible. Repent and be saved.

  10. Jane, no offense, but youre kind of going full retard. This beast of a woman has been married four times. Her soul is damned. Adultery and divorce are mentioned dozens of times in the bible. Gays are only mentioned once in the NT so most scholars agree that was just added by men.

  11. Dominic, your bigotry is vile. The gay stuff was just made up by men in the bible-that was proven years ago. Gays are full citizens and are entitled to full right under the law. Gays pay this thrice divorced beast’s salary! So she will serve them-along with Jews, interracial couples and blacks-or be punished. God’s will be done!!

  12. You are implying that her multiple marriages should negate any claim she has to religious conviction. That’s discriminatory, for divorce is not in the same league as an heretical redefinition of marriage …..that has absolutely no religious foundation or validity.
    How can she show compassion for people who demand to live sinfully? Do we show compassion for people robbing our store or stalking our friends? No. Again, Christian is not an adjective for compassion, humbleness, timidity, or kindness, it is a noun describing someone following the teachings of Christ. And the teachings are meant to be protected, not compromised.

  13. Well, Norm, I’ve never heard about the man made gay stuff in the Bible……and I’m pretty well read. Gays have always been full citizens, also, it’s their lifestyle that has been criminal. Not satisfied with equality as homosexuals, they overstepped their welcome by insisting on gay marriage.That, then, enters the realm of Religion, God, and morality, so I’m just stating facts…not playing the bigot.
    The law is not always good or moral, so God fearing people will always choose God over secular fashions. This woman has an argument, and will lose her job over it. It looks to me like she’s an unnecessary victim of gay persecution……which this politically correct country pretends is not the case.
    Gay marriage is legal, you’ve won a victory with ceaseless propaganda. Don’t think that there will not be major fall outs and battles for years to come. Ultimately, as you said, God’s Will will be done.

  14. Oh, Norm….scholars, really?
    By the time of the New Testament, homosexuality was such an ingrained, obvious sin, that no more needed to be spoken about it. You cannot assume that only one mention of it diminished what was believed until 50 years ago. Homosexuality lies outside the blessed use of sex….with adultery, sodomy, fornicatian, and bestialty. Please don’t just make things up.

  15. I commend this clerk, and would hope that she continues to exercise civil disobedience in this regard. It is high time to show the Left what it is like to engage in their practices.

  16. No, I’m implying that her religious convictions seem to be flowing in one direction, controlling the lives of OTHER people. Your take on it is simply your defense of the indefensible.

    How can one have compassion for people who choose to live sinfully? Perhaps you could ask the person who told you to “love one another as I have loved you. And of course, it’s a sin not to believe that Jesus died for your sins, some people who don’t believe that Jesus died for the sins are living simply. No compassion for them either, right?

    And let’s not even get into feeling compassion for people who feel free to judge the sins of others, when they have been expressly instructed by their Savior not to. Not to mention, her failure to do is Jesus commanded, and render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.

    You are quite a piece of work in your efforts to avoid the implications of your own religion in one case, gay people.

  17. Yes, how dare we imply that our lives are every bit as important and valuable as yours, that our families, faith, assets, freedoms, participation in society, and citizenship, are also as valuable as yours.

    or as valuable as those of a three times married, fornicating, adulterous former Republican congressman. or those of a married, fornicating, intending to be adulteress former Republican senator.

    Of course you are playing the big it could. But like so many big, you want to pretend that you’re not a bigot, because that is the homage that vice paste a virtue. It’s called hypocrisy. And of course, not all bigotries hate. So much of it is what you were demonstrating: your unwavering but completely unwarranted faith in your holy imaginary superiority as a moral person, a citizen, A christain, and a human being.

  18. You always attack the Relgious with their own ammunition, out of context as it always needs to be.
    Jesus said “love one another”, and a host of other teachings for the faithful….and He also spoke firmly against sin and the acceptance of sinful choices.
    You cannot compartmentalize Scripture or Tradition….you must grasp the full meaning. Gay people suffer under a condition that deserves compassion and understanding. Gay marriage is a creation of those who wish to sin publicly and call it equal to the natural law. This deserves no compassion or recognition…for it is an act against ALL that God established.
    So, call me a bigot, for that is indicative of your narrow-mindedness.

  19. First, I don’t suffer from anything, except a plague of so-called Christians who insist on religious dominion over the lives of people who don’t share their beliefs.

    Second, people who don’t believe that Jesus died for their sins are also sinning publicly, but you reserve all of your despite for gay people.

    It is not out of context, but it is quite clear. And the best ammunition available is what religious hypocrites claim are their sincere religious beliefs.

  20. Oh, Ben, you’re talking in circles. Christians don’t command anyone to do anything. They certainly can label a sin a sin, for that definition comes from God. But, as America has, people are free to define anything anyway they wish. That is wrong, pure and simple. Christians can and should hold this “freedom” in contempt for it is merely dressing up a dirty, unwashed woman and calling her a lady.

  21. Because nobody has to.

    She has a job to uphold the laws of the state as its representative. Her opinion or belief has no bearing on that duty. You are saying that government agencies should support discrimination if a clerk feels particularly bigoted against a citizen they are supposed to serve.

    If she didn’t want to do her job, she should quit. Nobody has to be inconvenienced and have their rights abridged because some clerk feels she is above the law.

    Religious freedom means nobody ever has to give a crap what you believe, nor can you force anyone to care.

    Why do you hate our free and democratic way of life so much?

  22. She is showing what kind of immature whiny people Christian bigots can be when the law no longer sanctions their bad behavior. It’s not civil disobedience. It’s just being uncivil.

    Behavior very much paralleled with how the Klan and Southern Baptists responded to desegregation and the civil rights act.

  23. And if the clerk was the head of a religious court and not a public civil servant, then we would have to give a crap about what she thought scripture says about this sort of thing.

    But she wasn’t. She was a servant of the state of Kentucky. In a position where she had to provide services to the public in accordance with the laws of the state and nation.

    Being a passive aggressive malicious bigot, she mistakenly believed her duty to the public was subordinate to her personal prejudices. She refused to do her duty, she had no reason to continue working. A conscientious and moral person would quit if they were faced with such a spiritual quandry. But this is not about moral actions. This is about trying to abuse one’s position to act badly to others.

  24. No, but it does speak to her character. Most divorces/remarriages don’t fall within divorces and remarriages allowed by scripture. How can she show compassion for people who enter into ANY unbiblical marriage and demand to live sinfully?

  25. This issue is not about the bible, it’s about the constitution and the guarantee of equality, which involves the separation between church and state. No servant of that state has the right or duty to impose themselves against the laws of the United States. If this clerk refuses to enforce the laws within the jurisdiction of her oath of office and that of the circuit court, she can believe whatever she wants, but the reality is, that at some point she will no longer be able to detain her inevitable responsibilities as an elected official without being held accountable for violating the law as interrupted by the highest court within our judiciary. In order to avoid her contempt for our laws she may resign her position as a form of protest, or face another inevitability, which is a contempt of court citation that can involve any number of consequences, including fines and jail, and that is her reality to confront no matter the basis of her beliefs.

  26. Did it ever cross anyone’s mind that she may have gotten saved after those divorces and therefore her sons are forgiven and forgotten by God and that she is really trying to do her job and serve God. He comes first and the Bible does teach against gays. Whether it’s accurate or not only God knows. Judge not lest ye be judged. Ye without sin cast the first stone.

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