Judge releases Kentucky clerk with instructions she should ‘not interfere’
Kentucky clerk Kim Davis walked out of jail Tuesday afternoon, eliciting cheers from hundreds of protesters who had gathered outside to demand her release.
A smiling Davis left the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Kentucky, at 2:37 p.m. EDT, followed by her Liberty Counsel attorney Mat Staver and Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee.
Davis was released after U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning signed an order allowing for her release.
While the release is being hailed by some as a victory for Davis, the court order enabling her release instructed that Davis “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”
If Davis “should interfere in any way” with the issuance of marriage license, said the judge’s order, “appropriate sanctions will be considered.”
Picking his words carefully at Tuesday’s rally, Davis attorney Mat Staver said Davis “cannot allow her name to be associated with something that conflicts with God’s definition of marriage. Her conscience did not change to get freedom.… She will not violate her conscience. She will return to work later this week and she will not abandon her post.”
Davis’ attorney Mat Staver told the rally crowd that Davis could hear the rally’s cheers when she was inside the jail. He said Davis would thank the crowd but not make any comment on the case to the audience or to reporters.
Davis took the stage to the song “Eye of the Tiger,” both arms raised and looking up, as if praying. She seemed overcome with emotion, as she looked out on the crowd.
“Thank you all so much. I love you all so very much,” said Davis before the crowd chanted back, “We love Kim.”
“I just want to give God the glory. His people have rallied, and you are a strong people….Just keep on pressing. Don’t let down because he is here….I love you guys, thank you so much.”
Judge Bunning ordered Davis, head clerk for Rowan County, to jail September 3 for contempt of court, after she refused to comply with his August 12 order to end a policy she initiated in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down bans on marriage for same-sex couples.
Davis had contended that, because of her Apostolic Christian beliefs, she could not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, June 26, Davis instituted a policy of not issuing marriage licenses to any couples –straight or gay.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit, Miller v. Davis, on behalf of four couples –gay and straight—who had been refused marriage licenses by Rowan’s office.
On Monday, Bunning directed ACLU attorneys to indicate by 10 a.m. Tuesday whether “any of the named Plaintiffs have had a marriage license issued to them by the Rowan County Clerk’s office….” Bunning’s order said the “deputy clerks…indicated they would comply” with the order. It also said that counsel for the deputy clerks would file a report every 14 days on the status of compliance with the order.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Tuesday that three marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples last week “were altered to remove the name of the jailed county clerk Kim Davis.”
The Herald-Leader reported that licenses issued last week and filed in the court record show that, where Davis’ name ordinarily would be, the words ‘Office of Rowan County, Rowan County’ appeared instead. Staver, at Tuesday’s impromptu press conference, said the licenses without Davis’ name are not valid.
When a reporter asked, “Kim was it worth it for you?” Davis just smiled and said nothing.
William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU-Kentucky, issued a statement saying, “This case was brought to ensure that all residents of Rowan County, gay and straight, could obtain marriage licenses. That goal has been achieved. The Kentucky Attorney General and counsel for Rowan County have said the marriage licenses are valid. We are relying on those representations, and our clients look forward to proceeding with their plans to marry.”
CNN, MSNBC, and other media broadcast live coverage of the “Free Kim Davis” rally and Davis’ release from the Carter County Detention Center.
Huckabee helped organize the rally for Davis and Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz went to Kentucky to meet with Davis in jail and participate in the rally.
Huckabee praised Davis for having “ignited something across this country” against judicial “tyranny.” Huckabee said he would be willing to go to jail on behalf of Davis.
“We will not surrender to tyranny of one branch of the government,” said Huckabee.
“I have a message for the judge,” said Huckabee, “if this judge believes somebody must be put in jail … I would ask this of him: Let Kim go. But if you have to put someone in jail, I volunteer to go.”
At the rally, Tony Perkins, president of the right-wing Family Research Council, compared Davis to the pilgrims who came to the New World in search of religious freedom and to civil rights legend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One pastor urged the crowd that the United States belongs to Jesus Christ. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown spoke to the crowd, comparing Davis to Rosa Parks.
“Do not comply with unjust authority,” said Brown.
In speaking to the crowd, Staver inadvertently referred to the crowd as being part of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“Kim Davis never thought she would be in the national spotlight. Kim Davis does not consider herself a hero,” said Staver. He said Davis ran for the office of Rowan County Clerk at God’s “urging” –“she will not resign that position.”