Kim Davis's legal arguments in her lawsuit against Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear are full of "absurdity," the governor said in a court filing Tuesday.
It's the latest development in the many court battles for Davis, the elected clerk of Rowan County, who went to jail for defying a court order to issue marriage licenses without discrimination. Davis, who says granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates her Christian beliefs, was sued by four couples because her office ceased issuing any licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court's marriage equality decision. But she has also filed her own suit against Beshear, claiming he violated her religious freedom and made her vulnerable to litigation by ordering all of Kentucky's county clerks to comply with the marriage equality ruling.
Davis's suit, filed in August in U.S. District Court, contends that the governor "took it upon himself ... to set and announce new Kentucky marriage license policies and command county clerks to abide by such policies," NBC News reports. The suit claims Beshear's action had the effect of "specifically targeting clerks like Davis who possess certain religious beliefs about marriage."
In his Tuesday filing, however, Beshear and his legal team point out that he did not set any policy but simply sent a letter informing county clerks of the Supreme Court's ruling, also mentioning that the state would abide by it. "Even if he had not sent the letter, the ruling would still obligate county clerks to issue licenses to same-sex couples, the lawyers said," according to NBC.
Davis also argues that Beshear could have made the issuance of licenses a state function rather than a duty of county clerks. But he does not have authority to make this change, his lawyers say; it would have to go through the state legislature. The assertion that he could change the procedure unilaterally "demonstrates the absurdity of Davis' argument," the filing states. The act of issuing a marriage license, it adds, is simply an administrative task and "does not implicate [Davis's] individual religious beliefs."
The governor has asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to dismiss the lawsuit, and Bunning is expected to rule soon, NBC reports. Bunning is the same judge who, in the suit brought by Kentucky couples, issued the court order for Davis to comply with the law. He released her from jail after five days, saying his order had been satisfied because Davis's deputies were granting marriage licenses, and as a condition of her release he told her not to interfere with the process when she returned to work. He also appointed a lawyer for each of her deputies to monitor the situation; one deputy, who is handling all requests from same-sex couples, has raised concerns because Davis changed the license forms to remove her name.