September 4, 2015

Kentucky Clerk Resists High Court on Marriage Licenses

 ©2015 Baptist Press

A Kentucky county clerk not only lost at the U.S. Supreme Court on August 31 but now faces a likely contempt of court ruling for again refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and her deputies turned away gay couples seeking marriage licenses on September 1 at their office in the eastern Kentucky town of Morehead. Their refusal came after the high court denied Davis’ request to block enforcement of a federal judge’s order that she issue licenses for same-sex marriages.

Lawyers for the gay couples subsequently filed a contempt of court motion against Davis, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. David Bunning, the federal judge who previously ordered Davis to issue licenses, will consider the request she be held in contempt, according to the newspaper.

The Supreme Court’s denial of Davis’ application for a stay of the order came two months after the justices legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. That 5-4 ruling June 26 prompted some country clerks to resign their jobs rather than issue licenses to gay couples. Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses and has refused to resign, appealing for an accommodation of her religious beliefs in order for her to keep her job.

American history “is filled with accommodations for people's religious freedom and conscience,” Davis said September 1 in a statement issued by Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom advocacy organization that represents her. “I want to continue to perform my duties, but I also am requesting what our founders envisioned -- that conscience and religious freedom would be protected.”

Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, found the Supreme Court’s decision unsurprising, since the same justices ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. "This case is just another step along the sad road where erotic liberty trumps religious liberty in the United States," he told Baptist Press in written comments.

“This can't be an easy stand for Mrs. Davis to take,” Chitwood said. “The criticism is sharp, and the potential for fines and even jail time is very real. No matter how this plays out, we can all agree she's facing an unenviable situation, and Christians across this country need to be praying for her."

Tom James, president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, told BP he supports Davis.

"To issue the license would not only violate her conscience but also her protection under the First Amendment of our Constitution, which provides for the free exercise of religion," said James, pastor of Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green, in a written statement. "Christianity is not something a person can stop practicing when they go to work or school; our relationship with Christ should be marked by deeply held convictions that permeate all of who we are.

"We as a society are moving towards removing all of God's standards and to silence all of God's children who seek to speak light and truth in a society that is becoming darker by the minute," he said.

The Supreme Court opinion in June did not rule out accommodations for the conscience rights of religious Americans, Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said August 31 before the high court issued its denial.