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Kim Davis Just Wants to Make the Case Against Her Go Away

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The antigay Kentucky county clerk claims a new law gives her all the "religious accommodation" she ever desired.

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Antigay Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis wants to give up her appeal in the case brought against her for refusing to issue marriage licenses, saying a new state law makes the case moot -- but maybe she just wants it all to be over, while claiming something of a victory.

Davis famously served several days in jail last year for contempt of court, after she shut down all marriage license operations in Rowan County rather than serve same-sex couples in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling. She said that issuing licenses to same-sex couples would violate her religious beliefs as an Apostolic Christian; at one point she called the question of issuing such licenses "a heaven or hell decision." She had also contended that her refusal to grant licenses did not burden any couples, as they could get one in a different county.

Four couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex, sued Davis, leading to the contempt order. Davis was released from jail because a deputy clerk in her office was serving same-sex couples, meeting the demands of the U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who ordered her to serve all couples without discrimination. But Davis and her legal team at the right-wing Liberty Counsel had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to overturn Bunning's contempt order and his injunction ordering her to grant licenses to same-sex couples.

Davis has said she merely sought a religious exemption that would keep her name off the licenses. The Kentucky legislature has now passed a law that changes marriage license forms so that clerks' names and any other identifiers do not appear on the form, and that is "the very religious accommodation Davis sought from the beginning of this litigation," says Liberty Counsel in its motion to dismiss Davis's appeals, filed today with the Sixth Circuit. She still, however, wants the court to vacate Bunning's orders. And she asks to bear no court costs.

The law will take effect July 14, just two weeks before the case is scheduled for oral argument. Gov. Matt Bevin, elected last year, issued an executive order to the same effect, but the legislation writes it into the Kentucky statutes. Davis had complained because Bevin's predecessor, Steve Beshear, refused to issue such an order. Liberty Counsel's motion says the new state law "is an exercise of appropriate and responsible lawmaking," renders Bunning's orders moot, and removes the case from the appeals court's jurisdiction.

The American Civil Liberties Union and private attorneys representing the couples said they had no objection to dismissing Davis's appeals, but an ACLU spokeswoman "said the merits of the case unrelated to her specific appeal are still before the courts," the Associated Press reports.

Because of the new law, the Sixth Circuit is likely to "simply put the matter to rest," notes Huffington Post legal correspondent Cristian Farias. "In effect, Davis would get a win not because she was ever right on the law, but because the law was changed to spare her."

And with marriage equality the law of the land, this appears to be the only win Davis could hope for. In a press release, Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver said he and Davis "are very pleased" with the new Kentucky statute. They undoubtedly would have liked to get more -- but this is all the law will allow.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.