Politics & Government

Judge rules against Kim Davis again in marriage-license lawsuit

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, with son Nathan Davis, a deputy clerk, read a statement Monday outside the Rowan County Courthouse as she returned to work.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, with son Nathan Davis, a deputy clerk, read a statement Monday outside the Rowan County Courthouse as she returned to work. Herald-Leader

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis lost in another attempt Wednesday to delay a federal judge's order requiring her to grant marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning refused to grant Davis an emergency stay that she requested for the preliminary injunction he issued last month, ordering her to resume issuing marriage licenses. Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses in June because of her religious opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, prompting roughly a half-dozen local couples to sue her.

At a hearing Sept. 3 in Ashland, where Bunning sent Davis to jail for five days for contempt of court, the judge expanded his mandate to include all eligible couples in Rowan County, rather than just the couples who sued Davis.

Davis challenged Bunning's expanded order before the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Her lawyers argued that because most of the couples who sued received their licenses from one of Davis' deputies during her time in jail, she should not have to issue any more while the case is pending. The appeals court rejected her request a week ago because Davis failed to first ask Bunning to stay his order, as federal court rules require.

In a five-page order Wednesday, Bunning denied the stay motion that Davis subsequently filed with him. The judge said he had no intention of letting Davis grant marriage licenses to eligible couples who are plaintiffs in the case while denying licenses to others.

"Such an approach would not only create piecemeal litigation; it would be inconsistent with basic principles of fairness and justice," Bunning wrote.

The judge did not address concerns raised by the ACLU about changes Davis made to marriage licenses issued by her office after she returned to work from jail. The license forms — now handled by deputy county clerk Brian Mason — have been edited by Davis to remove her name and title and the name of Rowan County. Instead, they say they were issued "pursuant to federal court order," and include the case number and Bunning's initials.

The altered forms carry Davis' "stamp of animus" against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and signal that in Rowan County, members of that community are second-class citizens, the ACLU argued in a motion filed Monday for several of the couples suing the clerk.

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