Kim Davis Is Back in Court, Defiant as Ever

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Kim Davis and her lawyers took her fight to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati today, in hopes they could finally convince a judge she was within her rights when she defied another judge’s order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

Davis, through her attorneys — Mat Staver and the religious right law firm Liberty Counsel — argues, in her appeal of U.S. District Judge David Bunning's ruling, that she is a victim, “a prisoner of conscience,” and that her individual freedoms were violated, along with her “undisputed sincerely-held religious beliefs about marriage.” 

Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, Ky., shut down marriage license operations at her office after the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling, rather than serve same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex ones. Four couples sued, leading to Bunning's ruling that she and her deputies must issue licenses without discrimination. Her case hinges on the idea, though, that denying licenses at the Rowan County office placed no burden on couples' right to marry, as they could go to another county.

“No precedent from this Court or the Supreme Court establishes a fundamental constitutional right to obtain a marriage license in a particular county authorized and signed by a particular person.”

Davis’s attorneys also argue that former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear could have given her an accommodation, perhaps by removing clerks' names from marriage licenses, but refused. His successor, Gov. Matthew Bevin, made that accommodation by executive order, but critics say it should have gone through the legislature.

In what could be seen as a show of chutzpah, the appeal filed with Sixth Circuit actually quotes the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the ruling announced June 26 guaranteeing marriage equality throughout the United States, to support the claim that Bunning “eviscerated” Davis’s rights to due process and rights under Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and “flouted principles of federalism:”

“This Court should also reverse the district court’s subsequent orders that valued expediency over basic principles of jurisdiction and callously trampled upon Davis’ due process rights for the purpose of vindicating the district court’s own authority. This Court cannot allow such overreaching judicial decisions lacking in jurisdiction, and inquisition-like proceedings lacking in fundamental due process protections, to stand — especially when the consequences of those error-laden rulings placed a dulyelected, public official in jail because she sought a simple religious accommodation as a person who subscribes to a view about marriage that ‘long has been held — and continues to be held — in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.’”

The appeal asks, in addition to having Bunning’s injunctions against Davis reversed, that the court’s September 3 contempt order that landed her behind bars be reversed also. In fact, the appeal makes note that if it stands, Davis may well find herself again in violation of the order and back in jail. 

The conservative news website WND summed up her case this way: “Kim Davis: ‘Gay Marriage Judge’ Blew Decision.”

No word on when the Sixth Circuit Court will render its decision. 

Read the appeal filed by Liberty Counsel on behalf of Kim Davis here.