For the first time in nearly a week, Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk who has attracted widespread media attention for defying orders to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, walked free. District Judge David Bunning ordered her release Tuesday afternoon, with the stipulation that Ms. Davis "not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples."
Judge Bunning, in his written order, said he was satisfied the county clerk's office was fulfilling its obligation to issue marriage licenses to legally eligible couples. However, as Think Progress notes, if Davis refuses to block her staff from issuing future marriage licenses, Bunning will again hold her in contempt of court.
Davis says she believes a marriage can only be between a man and a woman, which she says is in accordance with her religious faith. She has refused to issue any marriage licenses since the US Supreme Court in June made same-sex marriages legal across the United States. Despite the jailing, she has refused to resign from her post.
This afternoon, a rally held in support of Davis, became a celebration of her release. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee appeared at the rally alongside Davis. Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas was also present.
Davis has emerged as a touchpoint for the Republican Party’s historic allegiance to the First Amendment, religious liberty, and free speech. However, Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia University, commented in a recent interview with NPR that “[Davis] has absolutely no legal ground to stand on. As a public official, she's supposed to abide by the law and perform her public duties, which are issuing marriage licenses to qualified couples… [she] has all sorts of religious liberty rights secured under the First Amendment and under other laws. But they are not at stake in this case.”
Davis, for her part, remains firm. In a statement issued by her representatives, Liberty Counsel, she has said: “I intend to continue to serve the people of Rowan County, but I cannot violate my conscience.”
This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.