National Opinions

County clerk's agenda a mystery

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis paused as she spoke Tuesday after being released from the Carter County jail in Grayson. Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, was released Tuesday after five days behind bars. U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who ordered Davis jailed Thursday for contempt of court, instructed her Tuesday that she was not to interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses by deputy clerks. After she was released, one of her attorneys, Mat Staver, said, “Kim Davis cannot, will not violate her conscience.” He declined to expand on that statement.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis paused as she spoke Tuesday after being released from the Carter County jail in Grayson. Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, was released Tuesday after five days behind bars. U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who ordered Davis jailed Thursday for contempt of court, instructed her Tuesday that she was not to interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses by deputy clerks. After she was released, one of her attorneys, Mat Staver, said, “Kim Davis cannot, will not violate her conscience.” He declined to expand on that statement. Associated Press

What does Kim Davis want?

As the circus atmosphere around the Rowan County clerk escalates, attracting a couple of long-shots in the Republican presidential field but doing no good for Kentucky's image, we can't be the only ones who are confused by Davis' shifting demands.

Davis has been saying that having her name on same-sex marriage licenses would violate her religious beliefs and conscience.

One of her lawyers called on Gov. Steve Beshear to accommodate her First Amendment rights by unilaterally removing clerks' names from marriage licenses.

The Kentucky Association of County clerks also is advocating removing clerks' names as the "simple solution" for clerks who have religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Well, Davis' name was removed from the marriage licenses issued since Friday. Only the deputy clerk's name appeared.

And, clearly, Davis did not participate in issuing any marriage licenses because she was in jail for contempt of court. (Likewise, she participated in none of the other work for which she's paid $80,000 a year.)

Her conscience should be clear.

But her attorney now says that the licenses, issued without her name or approval, were invalid — a contention that is getting no support from neutral observers.

Her attorney also said that her jailing came as a surprise, which is weird because, even if he missed that day in law school, almost every news report said Davis could be jailed if the judge found her in contempt.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who ordered Davis released Tuesday after five nights in the Carter County jail, continues to focus on what should be paramount: Making sure that there are no second-class citizens in Rowan County and that all of them can exercise the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, including, as of a June 26 Supreme Court ruling, the right to marry someone of the same gender.

Bunning gave Davis the option of avoiding jail by agreeing not to block the five deputy clerks who said they were willing to issue marriage licenses to anyone who is legally eligible.

The next day, with Davis jailed for contempt, at least two same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses in Rowan County. (For the record, Triplett Creek did not turn red or run backward.)

Bunning on Tuesday found that the clerk's office now is fulfilling its legal obligation and ordered Davis released.

He also ordered her not to interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses, which means Davis could go back to jail if she violates the court order.

Neither Davis nor her lawyer said whether she would continue to defy the federal courts. We could be wondering a while longer what Davis wants.

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