Kim Davis saga continues: Will she be censured for defying court order – again?

The Kentucky clerk’s brief imprisonment for refusing to issue gay marriage licenses made her a lightning rod in the debate over religious freedom, personal liberties, and the law. ACLU lawyers now accuse her of issuing questionably legal licenses.

Timothy D. Easley/AP/File
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee at her side, greets the crowd after being released from the Carter County Detention Center, in Grayson, Ky., Sept. 8. The ACLU has accused Ms. Davis of issuing 'questionably legal' marriage licenses in violation of a court order not to interfere with employees issueing the certificates to same-sex couples.

Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who spent five days in jail this month for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, may be facing more time, as four couples’ lawyers now accuse her of modifying marriage licenses to undermine their legality.

According to the lawyers representing two gay couples and two straight couples, the Rowan County clerk’s office has changed the language appearing on marriage licenses since Ms. Davis’ return, when she was ordered not to interfere with other employees’ issuing of licenses. US District Court Judge Bunning determined that licenses did not have to include Davis’ name, a workaround to her religiously-motivated refusal to marry gay couples after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in June.

In Davis’ absence, her staff had begun issuing licenses without her name. After resuming work last week, however, she confiscated the licenses to make an additional change: new ones no longer say they have been issued by the county clerks office, but instead read “pursuant to federal court order."

This Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge to order Davis to reissue the licenses, claiming in their court filing that the change leaves their clients’ marriages “questionable at best,” leaving Rowan County same-sex couples “second-class citizens unworthy of official recognition and authorization.” The ACLU's lawyers have requested that Judge Bunning place Davis’ office in receivership if she continues to alter the licenses.

If placed under receivership, the judge would appoint someone else to issue licenses, amounting to what University of Louisville law professor Sam Marcosson calls “a limited takeover,” one stop short of re-imprisoning Davis.

Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, is expected to formally respond to the claims on Tuesday. In the meantime, he emphasized that Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear had promised to recognize the new Rowan County licenses, and denounced the fresh claims against Davis as being personally motivated. “They want her scalp to hang on the wall as a trophy,” he told the Associated Press. He called Davis’ compromises “a good-faith effort to comply with the court’s order” while following her conscience.

Davis’ first stint in prison ended in a spirited press conference-cum-rally led by Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, capitalizing on Davis’ now-iconic status among some social conservatives as a defiant martyr for religious liberty. As Huckabee escorted Davis to the stage, to the sound of "The Eye of the Tiger," he pledged, “If somebody needs to go to jail, I am willing to go in her place, and I mean that.... we cannot criminalize the Christian faith or any faith in this country.”

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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