The 'next Kim Davis' may be in Oregon, North Carolina or Alabama

by Michael Foust, Guest Reviewer |
Demonstrators show their support for Kim Davis outside the Rowan County Clerk's Office in Morehead, Kentucky, September 14, 2015. Davis, the county clerk who was jailed after refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, said Monday she will not authorize the licenses now that she has returned to work, but she will not block her deputies from issuing them. | REUTERS/Chris Tilley

MOREHEAD, Ky. (Christian Examiner) – County clerk Kim Davis returned to work Monday in Rowan County, Ky., for the first time after spending six days in jail, saying she would not stand in the way of her deputy clerks issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, although adding they "do not have my authorization or authority" to do so.

The marriage certificates her clerks issue to gay couples won't have her name or title on them – a point that has been at the heart of the controversy since her position became public.

"Instead, the licenses will state that they are issued pursuant to a federal court order," she said.

It isn't known whether the licenses are valid, and Davis herself said at a press conference that she has "grave doubts" they are valid. But until the governor or legislature acts to accommodate her religious beliefs, she said it is the best she can do.

Davis has been at the heart of a media and cultural firestorm over her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. After she defied a federal judge's ruling ordering her to grant such documents, she was tossed in jail -- even though her legal opponents had asked only that she be fined.

Her strong Christian beliefs, she has said, prevent her from allowing her name to be affixed on a certificate "that authorizes marriage that conflicts with God's definition of marriage."

"For me, this would be an act of disobedience to my God," she said Monday.

Davis, though, isn't the only public official in America that is taking such a stand, and the spotlight could shift to other parts of the country in the coming weeks. For example:

  • In Oregon, Judge Vance D. Day, a local official on Marion County's circuit court, allegedly has had his staff screen marriage applicants so he does not have to perform same-sex weddings. A judicial oversight committee is investigating him. Unlike Davis, Day's role in marriages is voluntary, The Washington Post reported. "Judge Day has firmly held religious beliefs rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition that defines marriage as between a female a male," his response to a complaint read. "[Judge] Day requested his assistant to not schedule him to perform same sex marriages, but to find an alternate judge who would do so because it conflicted with his firmly held religious beliefs."
  • In North Carolina, all four magistrates in McDowell County have refused to perform weddings for same-sex couples, which is allowed under a state law that allows religious objections for non-elected officials. (Davis is an elected official.) Magistrates from nearby Rutherford County travel to McDowell to perform weddings, while the McDowell County magistrates drive to Rutherford to perform other duties in a sort of "swap," WLOS-TV reported.
  • In Alabama, several probate judges have refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples. It is not known how many of them have taken that stance, but the director of the Human Rights Campaign Alabama estimated there are fewer than 10, reported. Unlike Davis, none of them have been sued yet, although University of Alabama law professor Ronald Krotoszynski said he can imagine a scenario in which they end up jailed if a lawsuit is filed and they refuse to obey a court ruling. Some of the judges say they are within law because it says probate judges "may" issue marriage licenses – not "shall" issue them.

Davis has made clear that her case is not unique.

"While my case may be the most visible right now, there are millions of other people out there in the private and the public sector who face and are in the same position and they also need reasonable accommodations," she said.

Attorney Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, who is representing Davis, agreed.

"Lest anyone think what Kim Davis is facing is unique to her, you would be wrong. She is one of millions of people in the public and private sector whose deeply held religious convictions will collide with the opinion of five Supreme Court Justices issued just over two months ago," Staver said, adding that Davis' case is "far from over."

Davis pushed back against those who insist she is motivated by hatred. She also encouraged both sides to debate the issue without being disagreeable.

"I urge everyone to remain civil and peaceful," Davis said at the press conference. "I pray that our dialogue remains civil and respectful. Because I love the Lord, and I love all people, I harbor no ill-will to anyone. I hate no one. Because I have been transformed by the love and forgiveness of my Lord Jesus Christ, I love every person. I love you all because He first loved me. Today, I put my faith and my trust in God and God alone."