Kim Davis and the law: Q&A in clerk standoff

Q. Why hasn’t Kim Davis been fired for refusing to issue marriage licenses and defying court orders?

A. She is an elected official and can only be removed from office for impeachment.

How would she be impeached?

The Kentucky House of Representatives would have to charge her with an impeachable offense and the Senate would then try her.

Is that likely?

The Kentucky Equality Federation, a gay rights group, has called for Gov. Steve Beshear to call a special session of the General Assembly to pursue impeachment. But Beshear, citing costs, has already declined to convene a special session to consider emergency legislation that would accommodate Davis and other clerks by having state government issue marriage licenses. Also, Bluegrass Polls show most Kentucky voters oppose gay marriage and support accommodating Davis.

“The legislature has placed the authority to issue marriage licenses squarely on county clerks by statute, and I have no legal authority to relieve her of her statutory duty by executive order or to remove her from office,” Beshear said in a statement Tuesday.

Can Davis be charged with a crime?

After being denied a license four times, a gay couple has asked the Rowan County attorney to charge her with official misconduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. But citing a conflict of interest — he is defending the county in suits naming Davis — he referred the request to the attorney general’s office, which is deciding whether to appoint a special prosecutor.

What happens next?

The two gay and straight couples who sued Davis have asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to find her in contempt of court. A hearing is set for 11 a.m. Thursday in Ashland.

What punishment could she get for that?

Bunning could jail or fine her, but the plaintiffs are seeking only monetary penalties, apparently to avoid engendering sympathy for her in jail. Bunning could order her to pay the fines out of her own pocket, rather than with taxpaper money.

Does Davis have any options left?

She can still pursue her appeal in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, but her bids to delay compliance ran out on Monday night when the Supreme Court denied her a stay.

Could local officials try to remove her?

Kentucky law allows a commonwealth’s attorney to indict county judges-executives, justices of the peace, sheriffs, coroners, surveyors, jailers, county attorneys and constables for malfeasance in office or willful neglect in the discharge of official duties, for which they can be fined up to $1,000 and removed from office upon conviction. But for some reason lost to history, the statute doesn’t include county clerks.

What are Davis’ grounds for refusing to comply with court orders?

She says that to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples, on which her name would be signed, conflicts with God’s definition of marriage and would violate her conscience. She says her religious liberty should be protected under the Kentucky and U.S. Constitutions and the Kentucky Religious Freedom Act.

Sources: Kentucky Constitution and KRS. University of Kentucky law professors Allison Connelly and Scott Bauries.

In: courierjournal

SCOTUS: Kentucky clerk must issue same-sex marriage licenses

KENTUCKY — The Supreme Court on Monday night, August 31st denied an emergency application from a Kentucky clerk who has been refusing to issue marriage licenses because of her religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Image: CNN

Image: CNN

The clerk, Kim Davis, sought to put a lower court ruling on hold pending appeal, and in a one-page order the Supreme Court refused.

Davis is now faced with a lower court order that her office begin issuing licenses effective Monday.

The order marks the first time the issue of same-sex marriage has come back to the justices since they issued an opinion last June clearing the way for same-sex couples to marry nationwide.

Davis, of the Rowan County Clerk’s office, has refused to issue any marriage licenses since the decision — Obergefell v. Hodges — came down. She is an Apostolic Christian who says that she has a sincere religious objection to same-sex marriage. Other clerks in the state have expressed concern, but Davis is the only one turning away eligible couples.

In Court papers, lawyers for Davis said that her “conscience forbids her from approving a (same-sex marriage) license — because the prescribed form mandates that she authorize the proposed union and issue a license bearing her own name and imprimatur.”

“In her belief,” the lawyers wrote, “(same-sex marriage) is not, in fact, marriage.”

They said issuing a same-sex license would amount to a “searing act of validation” that would “forever echo in her conscience.”

En: fox6now

Kentucky clerk takes same-sex marriage license battle to US supreme court

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis asks the highest court for permission to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples on grounds of religious freedom

Rowan County Kentucky clerk Kim Davis shows emotion as she is cheered by a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky state capitol on Saturday. Photograph: Timothy D. Easley/AP

Rowan County Kentucky clerk Kim Davis shows emotion as she is cheered by a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky state capitol on Saturday. Photograph: Timothy D. Easley/AP

Two months after it legalized gay marriage nationwide, the US supreme court is being asked by a Kentucky county clerk for permission to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis objects to same-sex marriage for religious reasons. The supreme court says the constitution guarantees gay people have the right to marry, but Davis contends the first amendment guarantees her the right of religious freedom.

She stopped issuing all marriage licenses the day after the supreme court effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide in June.

Two gay couples and two straight couples sued Davis, arguing she must fulfill her duties as an elected official. A federal judge ordered Davis to issue the licenses and an appeals court upheld that decision. Davis’s lawyers said they petitioned the supreme court on Friday to delay that decision until her appeal is finished, a process that could take months.

Her attorneys with the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel wrote in their appeal to the court that Davis is seeking “asylum for her conscience”.

Justice Elena Kagan, who joined the majority opinion that effectively legalized gay marriage across the US, will hear Davis’s case.

University of Louisville law professor Sam Marcosson said he believes Kagan will deny Davis’s request based on the court’s earlier decision.

Davis has refused to comply with several court orders in recent weeks, turning away gay couples over and over. She says they could easily drive to a nearby county to get a marriage license. But gay couples argue they have a right to get a marriage license in the county where they live, work and pay taxes.

Davis has said she will not resign her $80,000-a-year job and will never issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples – even if the supreme court denies her request.

“If a (same-sex marriage) license is issued with Davis’s name, authorization and approval, no one can unring that bell,” she wrote the court. “That searing act of validation would forever echo in her conscience.”

Her attorney, Jonathan D Christman, wrote that forcing her to issue licenses is akin to forcing a person who objects to war into the battlefield, or forcing a person against capital punishment to carry out an execution.

Davis cannot be fired because she is an elected official. The legislature could impeach her, but that is unlikely given that many state lawmakers share her beliefs. The Republican president of the state senate spoke at a rally last week in support of Davis.

The gay couples that sued her could ask US district judge David Bunning to hold Davis in contempt. That would trigger another court hearing and would likely include testimony from Davis herself. The judge could then order hefty fines or even put her in jail until she complies with the order.

En: theguardian