On June 26th of this year the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling in the case of Obergefell vs. Hodges, determining that any law which prohibits same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, violating the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and the body of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV. The effect of this ruling is that because any law prohibiting same-sex marriage is unconstitutional same-sex marriage must therefore be de facto legal, and so any state that had passed laws making same sex marriage illegal now found that those laws were unconstitutional. Kentucky was one such state with an existing law stating that same-sex marriage was not allowed.
After this decision was handed down, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses bearing her name, stating that she had a sincerely held religious belief that same-sex marriage was against her own personal religion, that of an Apostolic Christian. Apostolic Christianity promotes a literal interpretation of the Bible, their website stating, “Apostolic Christian beliefs are rooted in a literal interpretation of the Bible. We believe that the Bible’s teachings are applicable to all times and all cultures.” www.apostolicchristian.org.
Kim Davis is an elected official in Rowan County, and can only be removed from office by impeachment, by losing her next election, or by resigning.
Mrs. Davis followed through and refused to issue licenses to four same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses in her county. As a result, at least one of the couple filed a lawsuit which demanded that Mrs. Davis issue them a marriage license in accordance with the recent Supreme Court ruling. Her defense was that the First Amendment protection of religious freedom protected her from being forced to issue marriage licenses. Judge Bunning granted the request and ordered Mrs. Davis to issue the marriage license. The court determined that as an elected official holding a government office,
Mrs. Davis was acting as a representative of the government, not in her capacity as an individual citizen, and as a government representative she must issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Mrs. Davis received this order from the court, and refused to follow it when she returned to her job. She continued to refuse to issue marriage licenses. To clarify, Black’s Law Dictionary defines Civil Contempt as, “
[t]he failure to obey a court order that was issued for another party’s benefit â— [a] civil-contempt proceeding is coercive or remedial in nature. The usual sanction is to confine the contemptner until he or she complies with the court order.” Judge Bunning found Mrs. Davis had defied the court order, and in order to coerce her to obey the order he had her placed in the local jail, where she remained for five days. Eventually Mrs. Davis was released upon the condition that she not interfere with her deputies issuing marriage licenses.
While Mrs. Davis has not agreed to issue licenses with her seal or authority on them, the marriage licenses will be issued by her deputies, and the license will state that it is issued by Federal Court Order. Whether she is re-elected during for another term is yet to be seen. Other clerks in Kentucky and counties in other states have similarly refused to issue marriage licenses due to their belief that same-sex marriage is against biblical law. However, it seems that the court has settled this matter, and with or without the signatures of the clerks of the counties, same-sex couples across the United States will be allowed to marry.