Federal judge: Apostolic Christian clerk must issue same-sex marriage licenses

by Sara Horn |

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)A protester, angry with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to wed, carries a sign in front of the court building in Washington June 29, 2015. County clerks in Kentucky have been ordered to comply, but one clerk, Kim Davis, is fighting for her right to refuse.

COVINGTON, Ky. (Christian Examiner) - Kentucky's Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has not issued a single marriage license in her county since June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Despite a federal judge's recent order that she must, on Thursday the Apostolic Christian once again turned away a couple seeking a same-sex marriage license.

Davis has appealed U.S. District Judge David Bunning's decision to grant a preliminary injunction against Davis which was sought by four Rowan County couples - two same-sex, two opposite-sex, after she stopped issuing marriage licenses despite the state governor's directive to all 120 Kentucky county clerks to follow the Supreme Court's decision.

"Kim Davis is resolute in vindicating her rights," said Roger Gannam, senior litigation counsel at Liberty Counsel, a religious advocacy group representing her. He told the Lexington Herald-Leader "we [fundamentally] disagree with this order because the government should never be able to compel a person to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs."

Judge Bunning's decision equated Kim's free exercise of religion to going to church. This is absurd! Christianity is not a robe you take off when you leave a sanctuary. The First Amendment guarantees Kim and every American the free exercise of religion, even when they are working for the government.
- Mat Staver

The judge disagreed and in his ruling wrote that "the State is not asking [Davis] to condone same-sex unions on moral or religious grounds, nor is it restricting her from engaging in a variety of religious activities.

"Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs," Judge Bunning said. "She may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible Study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County Jail. She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do. However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk."

YOUTUBE/Lexington Herald-Leader
Casey County Clerk Casey Davis appeared at a hearing in July to support Rowan Clerk Kim Davis, who has also refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel said Davis should be more than accommodated as just another resident of the community since she was hired under different conditions.

"Kim Davis did not sign up as a clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses," Staver said. "Her job duty was changed by five lawyers without any constitutional authority. At a minimum, her religious convictions should be accommodated.

"Judge Bunning's decision equated Kim's free exercise of religion to going to church. This is absurd! Christianity is not a robe you take off when you leave a sanctuary," said Staver. "The First Amendment guarantees Kim and every American the free exercise of religion, even when they are working for the government."

Davis is appealing the judge's decision and is also suing Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear over forcing her to issue same-sex marriage licenses in the first place.

During her time on the stand earlier in the week, the Harold-Leader reported that Davis, her voice breaking, had told the judge her decision not to issue any marriage licenses was something she " prayed and fasted over. ... It wasn't a spur of the moment decision."

To authorize licenses meant she was "saying I agree with it, and I can't." She also chose to deny licenses to straight couples because she "didn't want to discriminate against anyone."

But ultimately, the judge did not agree.

"Our form of government will not survive unless we, as a society, agree to respect the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions, regardless of our personal opinions," Bunning wrote in explaining his ruling.

"Davis is certainly free to disagree with the court's opinion, as many Americans likely do, but that does not excuse her from complying with it. To hold otherwise would set a dangerous precedent."