ASHLAND, Ky. (Christian Examiner) – U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning ordered the arrest of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis today, ruling that she will not be released until she acknowledges her willingness to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Bunning could have ordered the clerk, who stopped issuing all marriage licenses after the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage in June, to pay fines after being found in contempt of court. Bunning said, however, fines were insufficient punishment for the clerk because they would likely be paid by others who supported her actions.
"I do not do this lightly," Bunning said, but he added that his decision was necessary in order to prevent a "ripple effect."
"Her good-faith belief is simply not a viable defense," Bunning said. "Oaths mean things."
The judge also chided the clerk for "willful disobedience" and said people cannot be given the choice of which orders they will follow.
Davis, however, said in her appearance before the judge that she could not transgress God's law by having her signature on documents approving a same-sex marriage. She had argued that the state could accommodate her by transitioning to an online system of marriage licensing where no signature would be required. Davis became a Christian only four years ago.
Liberty Counsel, which has represented Davis, said in a statement following the judge's order to jail the clerk:
"The plaintiffs did not even request incarceration, but Judge Bunning said that financial fines were not enough and ordered her to jail.
"Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said, 'Everyone is stunned at this development. Kim Davis is being treated as a criminal because she cannot violate her conscience. While she may be behind bars for now, Kim Davis is a free woman. Her conscience remains unshackled.'
"Kim Davis is a woman of strong faith. She never sought to be in this position. She would rather not be in this predicament. But here she is. All she asks is to be true to God and her conscience. And the tragedy is that there are simple ways to accommodate her convictions. Just remove her name from the marriage licenses. That's all she has asked from the beginning. Today's events will escalate this debate to a new level. This is not the kind of America the Founders envisioned or that most Americans want," Staver said.
The judge has also called for Davis's employees to appear in court to question them as to whether they will obey the court's order. If they do not, they will face jail time, as well.