NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk Kim Davis has lost another appeal in federal court, which said again on Wednesday her office must issue marriage licenses for gay couples (or else) even while she continues to file appeals.
Davis and her attorneys had asked that the court again to look into the case because of a legal technicality in an earlier ruling and because the ruling harmed Davis personally.
Judge David Bunning, however, said the appeal, if granted, would allow Davis and her office to return to the "no marriage license" policy while her appeals were addressed. That is unacceptable, he said, adding that following the accommodations granted by the court were sufficient.
"This argument is unpersuasive because Davis has created her own risk of harm by violating a valid order issued by this court," Bunning wrote in his ruling. "As for the public interest, the court simply notes that the public has an interest in the enforcement of valid court orders."
On Sept. 21, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a motion with the U.S. District Court asking judge David Bunning to enforce his original order instructing Davis to issue the licenses as she would any other – an order she denied before she was found in contempt and sent to jail for six days.
At the root of the ACLU's motion is the belief that Davis is issuing significantly altered marriage licenses, bearing the seal of a notary public instead of the seal of the office of the Rowan County Clerk. That constitutes an "interference" with the judge's previous order.
On Sept. 8, District Judge David Bunning wrote he was "satisfied that the Rowan County Clerk's Office is fulfilling its obligation to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples," while pointing out that the marriage licenses were altered to remove Kim Davis's name. The removal of the county's name is a new development.
In the ACLU's motion, it argued:
"Despite this clear directive ... Davis immediately began interfering with the Deputy Clerk's issuance of marriage licenses upon returning to her office on September 14. Rather than standing aside while Deputy Clerk Mason issued the same marriage licenses upon which this Court relied in its September 8 Order lifting the civil contempt finding and releasing her from custody, Davis 'confiscated all the original forms, and provided a changed form which deletes all mentions of the County, fills in one of the blanks that would otherwise be the County with the Court's styling, deletes her name, deletes all of the deputy clerk references, and in place of deputy clerk types in the name of Brian Mason, and has him initial rather than sign.'"
"The clerk's office needs to issue valid licenses that comply with the court's orders," James Esseks, director of the ACLU's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project, said in a news release. "It's sad that Ms. Davis has continued to interfere with the basic constitutional right of all loving couples to marry and that the plaintiff couples have to ask the court to intervene once again."
The new ACLU filing asks the court to order the clerk's office to issue the same licenses that were issued on or before September 8, with a county seal. Otherwise, it argues, they are not legal licenses. The filing also asks Davis's employees to ignore her efforts to issue altered licenses.
"Moreover, given Davis' repeated failure to comply with this Court's Orders, the Court should provide Davis with notice that any violation of this Order will result in civil sanctions, including both the placement of the Rowan County Clerk's Office into a receivership for the limited purposes of issuing marriage licenses and the imposition of coercive monetary fines to compel her compliance with the Court's Order," the motion reads.
Davis's attorney, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, said in a statement the ACLU wants "her scalp to hang on the wall as a trophy."
"Kim Davis has made a good faith effort to comply with the court's order and has not prevented the issuance of marriage licenses by deputy clerks. While these licenses do not have her name on them, the Governor said last Monday they were valid. Judge Bunning also said licenses issued while she was in jail without her name were valid," Staver said.
According to Staver, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway agrees. His spokeswoman told the Associated Press that he had "reviewed marriage licenses issued in Rowan County" and "believes that those issued while clerk Kim Davis was in jail and the one issued so far since her return to work are valid."