Jail for US clerk opposed to gay marriage
A defiant county clerk has been jailed after insisting her “conscience will not allow” her to follow a federal judge’s orders to issue marriage licences to gay couples.
Kim Davis was jailed for contempt on Thursday.
But rather than be fined, jailed or lose their jobs, five of her deputies told the judge they would issue the licences.
“God’s moral law conflicts with my job duties,” Davis told US District Judge David Bunning in Kentucky.
“You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul.”
The judge said he was left with no alternative but to jail her, since fines alone would not change her mind.
He had tried to keep Davis out of jail, saying she could go free if her staff agreed to comply with the law and she didn’t interfere.
But Davis rejected the offer, choosing jail instead.
Gay and lesbian couples vowed to appear at the Rowan County clerk’s office again on Friday, to see if the deputy clerks keep their promises.
“We’re going to the courthouse tomorrow to get our marriage licence and we’re very excited about that,” said April Miller, who has been engaged to Karen Roberts for 11 years.
In a landmark ruling, the US Supreme Court in June found that gay marriage bans are unconstitutional, and the vast majority of government officials around the country have since adhered to that ruling.
As word of Davis’ jailing spread outside the federal courthouse, hundreds of people chanted and screamed, “Love won! Love won!”
But Davis’ lawyer, Roger Gannam, compared her willingness to accept imprisonment to what Martin Luther King Jr did to advance civil rights, and said “everyone should lament and mourn the fact that her freedom has been taken away for what she believes”.
But Laura Landenwich, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, rejected the comparison.
“Ms Davis is in an unfortunate situation of her own creation. She is not a martyr. No one created a martyr today,” Landenwich said.
Speaking earlier from the bench, Bunning said it would set up a “slippery slope” to allow an individual’s ideas to supersede the courts’ authority.
“Her good faith belief is simply not a viable defence,” Bunning said.
Before she was led away, Davis said the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling conflicted with the vows she made when she became a born-again Christian.
“I promised to love Him with all my heart, mind and soul because I wanted to make heaven my home,” Davis said.
Miller and Roberts were denied a marriage licence four times by Davis or her deputies.
Miller testified that one of the deputy clerks told her to apply in another county.
“That’s kind of like saying we don’t want gays or lesbians here,” she said.
Davis, an Apostolic Christian whose critics mock her for being on her fourth marriage, stopped serving all couples after the high court ruling in June.