Kentucky clerk Kim Davis appeals order that put her in jail
Nov. 03, 2015
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky clerk Kim Davis has asked a federal appeals court to scrap a series of unfavorable rulings issued by the district judge who sent her to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
In a 126-page filing with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Monday, Davis' attorneys called U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning's order that Davis license same-sex marriage a "rush to judgment" that trampled the clerk's religious liberty.
Davis, the clerk of rural Rowan County, spent five nights in jail in September for defying that order, igniting a fierce debate about the collision of religious freedom and public service.
Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage in June. The American Civil Liberties Union sued her on behalf of four couples, and Bunning ordered her to issue the licenses. When she continued to refuse, Bunning held her in contempt and sent her to jail.
Jonathan Christman, Davis' lawyer with the Liberty Counsel, asked the appeals court to reverse four of the lower court's rulings, including the order that Davis issue licenses and the decision to hold her in contempt.
"By imprisoning Davis and threatening to hold her hostage indefinitely as a prisoner of her conscience, the district court imposed direct pressure and substantial burden on Davis, forcing her to choose between her religious beliefs and forfeiting her essential personal freedom on one hand, or abandoning those beliefs to keep her freedom on the other hand," Christman wrote.
By jailing Davis and ordering her deputy clerks to issue the licenses, Christman wrote, the district judge "commandeered" the public office Davis was elected to oversee.
The licenses issued by a deputy clerk were altered to remove Davis' name, and Bunning released her with orders not to interfere with her deputies issuing the licenses.
When she returned to work, Davis further altered the licenses to read they were issued "pursuant to federal court order." The validity of those licenses remains under review by the judge.
Davis also filed a counter suit against Gov. Steve Beshear, who sent a letter to all county clerks on the day of the Supreme Court's ruling that directed them to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples. He declined to call the legislature for a special session to craft a law to accommodate religious clerks, and told them instead to issue the licenses or resign.
Both Beshear and the ACLU have a month to respond to Davis' appeal.