U.S. District Judge David Bunning has sent a woman, Kim Davis, to jail for contempt after she insisted that her “conscience will not allow” her to follow federal court rulings on gay marriage.
“God’s moral law conflicts with my job duties,” Davis told the judge before she was taken away. “You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul.”
The judge later tried to keep Davis out of jail after all, saying she could go free if her staff agreed to comply with the law and she agreed not to interfere but Kim Davis rejected the offer, choosing jail instead.
Davis’ lawyer, Roger Gannam, has compared her willingness to accept imprisonment to what Martin Luther King Jr. did to advance civil rights, and said “everyone should lament and mourn the fact that her freedom has been taken away for what she believes.”
Laura Landenwich, an attorney for the plaintiffs, rejected the comparison.
“Ms. Davis is in an unfortunate situation of her own creation. She is not a martyr. No one created a martyr today,” Landenwich said. “She is not above the law.”
Speaking earlier from the bench, Bunning said it would set up a “slippery slope” to allow an individual’s ideas to supersede the courts’ authority.
“Her good faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” Bunning said. “I myself have genuinely held religious beliefs … but I took an oath.”
“Mrs. Davis took an oath,” he added. “Oaths mean things.”
Davis is represented by the Liberty Counsel, which advocates in court for religious freedom. Before she was led away, Davis said the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide conflicts with the vows she made when she became a born-again Christian.
“I promised to love Him with all my heart, mind and soul because I wanted to make heaven my home,” Davis said.
Miller and Roberts were denied a marriage license four times by Davis or her deputies since the June ruling. Miller testified that one of the deputy clerks told her to apply in another county.
“That’s kind of like saying we don’t want gays or lesbians here. We don’t think you are valuable,” she said.
Rather than be fined, jailed or lose their jobs, five of the clerks told the judge they would issue the licenses. Her son, Nathan Davis, refused, but the judge said that wouldn’t matter and he wouldn’t be punished, as long as the others complied.
Davis, an Apostolic Christian whose critics mock her for being on her fourth marriage, stopped serving all couples after the high court ruling in June. Many supporters and even some Republican presidential candidates have rallied behind her.
Davis said she hopes the Legislature will change Kentucky laws to find some way for her to keep her job while following her conscience. But unless the governor convenes a costly special session, they won’t meet until January. “Hopefully our legislature will get something taken care of,” she told the judge.
Until then, the judge said, he has no alternative but to keep her behind bars.