MOREHEAD, Ky. — Defying the Supreme Court, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis said she was acting “under God’s authority” as she continued to deny marriage licenses Sept. 1 to gay couples, whose lawyers filed a motion to find her in contempt of court.
“To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience,” Davis said in a statement published on the website of her lawyers, the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel.
“It is not a light issue for me,” she said. “It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s word.”
The contempt motion, which asks that she be fined rather than jailed, is to be heard at 11 a.m. Thursday Sept. 3, in Ashland by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning, who previously ordered Davis to end her policy of denying licenses to all couples to avoid having to issue them to gays and lesbians.Bunning ordered her and her deputies to attend the hearing.
“She is basically telling Judge Bunning and the 6th Circuit and the Supreme Court that she doesn’t care what they say,” said William Kash Stilz Jr., an attorney for a gay couple who has been turned away by her office four times, including Sept. 1.
Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement: “The law is clear and the courts have spoken. The duty of public officials is to enforce the law, not place themselves above it.”
Mat Staver, the Liberty Counsel’s chairman, said it was Davis’ call to continue denying licenses. “Every decision in this case has been her decision,” he said. “For her this is … not a defiance of the court issue. This is a conscience issue.”
The Supreme Court on Monday denied her last-ditch effort to stay the injunction, prompting at least three couples to return to the courthouse and request licenses early Tuesday. But all were refused. One exchange turned heated after a deputy clerk refused a couple that demanded to speak with Davis in person.
David Moore and his partner, David Ermold, confronted Davis over the counter for more than five minutes, accusing her of discrimination and bigotry and arguing that her religious beliefs have no place in a government office.
When Moore and Ermold asked under who’s authority she was denying the forms, Davis replied “under God’s authority.” And when Davis said she would not provide the paperwork and told them to leave, Moore shouted for someone to call the police.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” he yelled. “Everyone in this office should be ashamed of themselves. Is this what you want to remember? Is this what you want to remember — that you stood up for this? That your children have to look at you and realize that you are a bigot and that you discriminated against people?”
Davis returned and told the couple “I’m willing to face my consequences, and you all will face your consequences when it comes time for judgment. It’s plain and simple.”
James Yates and William Smith Jr. left the courthouse hand-in-hand after they were refused for the fifth time in recent weeks. Yates appeared to be fighting back tears as he said the denial was too hard to talk about.
Their lawyer, Stilz, said they were jeered as they left the courthouse. “James said he and Will had never seen such hatred,” Stilz said.
Moore said afterward that he and Ermold plan to keep fighting and will discuss options with their attorneys. The couple is one of several suing Davis, and Moore said he hopes to obtain a license before the end of 2015 even though lawyers have told him that the case could drag on for years.
“This is overwhelming. It feels ridiculous,” he said. “Who has to go through this to get married? This is 2015. This is America. This is what we pay taxes for — to be treated like this? To be discriminated against?”
Randy Smith, a local evangelist and supporter of Davis, said the clerk has conviction from God and that he doubts she will reverse her policy. He was one of dozens of people backing the clerk and singing hymns in a demonstration outside.
“It’s because of the love of Christ that Kim is not passing out marriage licenses,” said one man in the crowd, Jack Templeman. “She’s even going against a man and woman to show the love of Christ. … It’s all about the love of God. I see signs that it is about hate, but it’s really not. It’s about love.”
But Eric Yoak said there’s no love in denying people their rights and freedoms. He was among dozens more who stood on the opposite side of the courthouse lawn, waving rainbow flags and chanting “love has won” and “do your job.” One protester held a sign that called Davis an embarrassment to Kentucky.
“There is separation of church and state for a reason,” said Jeanna Smith, who stood with Davis’ critics. “My mother is a Sunday school teacher and my mother even said Kim Davis needs to do her job or get out.”