Civil and Human Rights

Kim Davis making mockery of legal claim

Kim Davis, the clerk of a small Kentucky county who gained fame, praise from GOP presidential candidates and even a jail sentence for refusing to grant marriage licenses, claims all she wanted was a simple 
legal accommodation for her faith.


“I just want to serve my neighbors quietly, without violating my conscience,” Davis said yesterday in a tearful statement to the press after returning to her job for the first time since being set free.


But the quick collapse of her legal case, and the unnecessarily long and winding road she and her attorneys took to get there, seems to indicate otherwise.


Davis’ quest all but ended with Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s announcement the state would recognize all licenses issued by Davis’ deputies since she halted all such certificates in the wake of this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming same-sex marriage rights.


Davis’ claim of facing “the impossible” choice of obeying either a court order or her conscience, would be a powerful sentiment if it were true.


She could have taken her name off of the marriage license application in the first place, allowing her deputies to issue them. If she was unsure of the legality of such a move, she could have asked the state Attorney General Jack Conway, whose spokeswoman yesterday confirmed both the validity of such a move and that Davis never asked Conway’s legal opinion.


She even could have done this after she was sued by the ACLU, or when the first judge ordered her to resume issuing licenses, or after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected her emergency petition, or to avoid the jail sentence. The judge who jailed her told her as much.


“He gave her a get-out-of-jail-free card, and she is essentially spitting at him,” said Judith Schaeffer, vice president of Constitutional Accountability Center in Washington. 


Instead, Davis waited until yesterday to take what seemed like the obvious step to have her job and her religious beliefs too. But even as she did so, she and her attorneys issued a dire warning, calling the documents being issued by her deputies “unauthorized licenses.”


Beshear disavowed that idea, saying they “are going to be recognized as valid in the commonwealth.”


While that move seems to render moot her legal claim for accommodation, her attorneys disagree.


“Liberty Counsel’s attorneys are looking into the legal implications,” said the attorneys’ spokeswoman Charla Bansley, adding Beshear’s statement “proves what we’ve been saying all along: the governor has the power to grant Kim an accommodation.”

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