ROWAN COUNTY, Ky. (Christian Examiner) – A Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk has refused to obey the ruling of the United States Supreme Court, which declined yesterday to hear her appeal on the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God's definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience.
Kim Davis, who was elected to the office of county clerk nearly three decades ago, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples when the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges in June. A lower court ruled Davis was required to issue the licenses, but she appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
That court also said Davis was required to issue the licenses, but stayed the lower court's ruling while Davis entered an appeal with the nation's highest court. Justice Elena Kagan rejected that appeal and in a one line order said the lower court's rulings were proper.
Several homosexual couples arrived at the office of the clerk Sept. 1, but Davis still refused to issue the licenses. She insists the state must make accommodations for her religious beliefs by allowing another method for the issuing of marriage licenses.
Davis said in a statement she loves the people of Rowan County and has never lived in another location. While she said some have called on her to resign, "I have done my job well."
"In addition to my desire to serve the people of Rowan County, I owe my life to Jesus Christ who loves me and gave His life for me. Following the death of my godly mother-in-law over four years ago, I went to church to fulfill her dying wish. There I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God," Davis said.
"I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God's definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience," she added.
Davis said she, unlike many, does not see the issue of her issuing marriage licenses as a "gay or lesbian issue."
"It is about marriage and God's Word. It is a matter of religious liberty, which is protected under the First Amendment, the Kentucky Constitution, and in the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act," she said.
Davis said she wishes to fulfill her duties, and she is requesting an appropriate accommodation to do so in accordance with her interpretation of the constitutional protects of the First Amendment, Kentucky Constitution and Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
"That is all I am asking. I never sought to be in this position, and I would much rather not have been placed in this position. I have received death threats from people who do not know me. I harbor nothing against them. I was elected by the people to serve as the County Clerk. I intend to continue to serve the people of Rowan County, but I cannot violate my conscience," Davis said.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed two motions in Kentucky district court asking a judge to hold Davis accountable for refusing to obey the law. Presumably, the judge could find Davis in contempt of the ruling in Miller v. Davis, which kicked off the controversy.
According to the ACLU, a contempt hearing is set for Thursday at 11 a.m. in the chambers of U.S. District Judge David Bunning.
"It is unfortunate that we've been compelled to take further action today to ensure that the people of Rowan County can obtain the marriage licenses they're entitled to receive from their County Clerk's office," Steven Shapiro, legal director for the ACLU, said in a statement. "The law is clear and the courts have spoken. The duty of public officials is to enforce the law, not place themselves above it."
That is not something Davis is attempting to do, according to Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, which is representing the clerk. Staver said a religious accommodation, such as allowing licenses to be issued with a signature other than Davis's, or an online system of licensing, would alleviate the crisis.
"Providing religious conviction accommodations is not antithetical for public employees," said Mat Staver said Aug. 31. "Throughout our history the courts have accommodated people's deeply held religious beliefs."
"The Supreme Court's marriage opinion does not suggest that religious accommodations cannot be made or that people have a fundamental right to receive a marriage license from a particular clerk," Staver continued. "There is absolutely no reason that this case has gone so far without reasonable people respecting and accommodating Kim Davis's First Amendment rights," Staver concluded.