Kentucky clerk opposed to gay marriage says state law negates appeal

The Kentucky clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples asked a federal appeals court to dismiss her appeal because the state’s new law to remove clerks’ names from licenses made her action unnecessary.

Attorneys for Rowan County clerk Kim Davis filed a motion Tuesday (June 21) with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking for the dismissal since the state’s new law will go into effect two weeks before the case was due for oral arguments.

Last summer, Davis refused to issue licenses to gay couples after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, drawing international attention and triggering demonstrations and legal actions.

Davis cited as grounds for her actions her Apostolic Christian beliefs defining marriage as a union reserved for heterosexual couples. Even though county clerks do not perform marriage ceremonies in Kentucky, she argued that her name on the document equaled approval.

Four couples sued Davis in federal court for her refusal to do her job, and a U.S. district court judge ruled that she was in contempt of court and jailed her for five days. After being released, Davis would not allow her name to appear on marriage licenses, requiring her deputies to use the title notary public on the form.

The new law, signed by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in April, “expressly modifies the Kentucky marriage licensing scheme to remove entirely a county clerk’s name, personal identifiers, and authorization from any license, thereby providing through a change in the law the very religious accommodation Davis sought from the beginning of this litigation,” according to the Tuesday filing.

Davis’ attorneys also asked the appeals court to vacate the district court’s orders, saying the contempt decree should not have been issued.

“I am pleased that I can continue to serve my community as the Rowan County Clerk without having to sacrifice my religious convictions and conscience,” Davis said in a statement.

Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, which represents Davis, said in the statement that the law offered the relief that she had sought from the beginning.