Embattled Ky. county clerk to return to work Monday

MOREHEAD, Ky. — Kim Davis, the embattled Kentucky county clerk at the center of a dispute over gay marriage and religious liberty, is resting at home with her family and won't return to work until next week.

"I am deeply moved by all those who prayed for me. All I can say is that I am amazed and very grateful," she said in a statement issued through her lawyers. "I am enjoying spending time with my husband, my family, and my three dogs. I have also been spending time reading boxes of letters expressing support and prayers from people around the country."

The Rowan County clerk was jailed on Thursday for refusing to comply with a federal judge's order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. During her six days in the Carter County Detention Center, her deputies complied with the order, which satisfied the court.

On Wednesday, the county clerk's office opened at 8 a.m. on schedule without Davis, its highest elected official. Three protesters were there holding signs. Deputy clerk Brian Mason, noting that the office would issue licenses to anyone seeking them, said 10 had been issued since Friday, seven of them to same-sex couples, the Associated Press reports.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning released Davis from jail Tuesday on the condition that she does not interfere with her deputies issuing the licenses.

Her attorneys, however, say the licenses issued in her absence are not valid and that Davis still refuses to authorize the forms, despite her detention. However, Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which represents her, never directly addressed whether Davis would try to re-establish the policy upon her return.

"I love God, love people, and love my work. I hope we will continue to respect these values and that America remains a place where all three can live in harmony," Davis said in her statement Wednesday afternoon.

Bunning said he was satisfied that the county clerk’s office would comply with his order. But he warned Davis she would be sanctioned again if she violates the conditions of her release and ordered the court-appointed lawyers for her deputy clerks to report every 14 days on whether they are continuing to comply with their sworn pledge to issue licenses to all couples.

Five of her six deputy clerks — all except her son Nathan — said under oath they would do so.

Mason, who has worked in the office about 18 months, said he hasn't spoke to Davis since her release but plans to continue issuing the forms even if she objects. He said he doesn't have concerns about losing his job.

As far as backlash in the community: "I've seen comments on the videos online, but I pay not attention to them," he said.

Licenses are issued in Kentucky under the authority of the county clerk, and one couple returned to the courthouse Wednesday to file their completed forms.

The dispute has served as a rallying cry for religious groups who championed Davis' actions as an expression of her religious liberty. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was on hand in front of the detention center Tuesday to escort her to a podium for a rally of about a thousand supporters.

“I just want to give God the glory,” she said, as Christian groups from around the region roared in support of her release. “His people have rallied, and you are a strong people.”

Davis, who took the stage as Eye of the Tiger played over a speaker system, urged the crowd to keep pressing because “he is here,” but she declined all comment at an earlier news conference. When a reporter asked whether her time in jail was worth it, Davis only nodded her head yes for a moment.

Staver told reporters that she had not abandoned her conscience. “We are pleased that Kim Davis has been ordered released,” he said in a statement. But "she can never recover the past six days of her life spent in an isolated jail cell like a common criminal because of her conscience and religious convictions.”

Staver said in an email Tuesday night that "we need time to speak with Kim about the order, and she needs time to rest."

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents four couples who sued her, said its goal has been achieved.

“This case was brought to ensure that all residents of Rowan County, gay and straight, could obtain marriage licenses,” William Sharp, legal director for the ACLU of Kentucky, said in a news release.

The Rowan County Rights Coalition, which has been protesting Davis' no-license policy for weeks, was not planning any events outside the courthouse Wednesday.

"Licenses are being issued, that's all we wanted," said coalition member Nashia Fife. "This is not about Kim Davis. We support Judge Bunning's decision to release her."

DeWayne Barnett, a local resident who stopped by the office Wednesday, said Davis has provided excellent service and has been helpful anytime he has had a problem. Still, Barnett said he is ashamed of the stance she has taken with same-sex couples.

"That is not the official I elected," he said. "That is not the kind of people I want representing me in my hometown. What's wrong with other people wanting to live their lives. Why shouldn't they be allowed — the gays and lesbians — the same misery that I have in my marriage?"

Randy Smith, a local evangelist who has organized supporters of Davis, said the matter isn't over and he accused Bunning of political posturing. He said he would be surprised if Davis complied with Bunning's order.

"I don't see anything that has changed," he said. "She was not willing to comply in the courtroom, and I don't think five or six days in the jailhouse is going to make a difference."

If anything, Smith said, the issue has only emboldened Christians, and "they understand that this thing is far from over."