For most of the summer, Kim Davis fought tooth and nail to keep from issuing marriage licenses to LGBT couples. The clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, even went as far as to refuse to issue any marriage licenses at all for two months. Well, it looks like Davis has finally realized this is a losing battle — or at least, her attorneys at Liberty Counsel have come to this conclusion. A brief from Davis’ legal team has conceded that marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples out of her office are indeed valid.
When Davis defied an order from federal judge David Bunning to end her charade, Bunning held her in contempt of court and threw her in jail. All but one of her deputy clerks promised to comply with Bunning’s order, and Bunning released Davis after she promised not to interfere with them. However, Davis’ attorneys tried — and failed — to have any licenses rejected that didn’t bear Davis’ name. When Davis returned to work, she significantly altered the license forms. She removed all mention of her name, the county’s name and to her deputy clerks. Only a deputy’s name is on the form — but not his or her title.
The gay and straight couples who originally sued Davis thought these changes could call the licenses’ validity into question. In September, with the help of the ACLU, they asked Bunning to order Davis to resume using the original forms. On Monday, Davis’ attorneys filed a brief opposing that request. Read the brief here. While it’s 35 pages long, it contains a very telling sentence in the introduction:
“As they did in their motion to reopen class certification proceedings, Plaintiffs conveniently fail to acknowledge (again) that marriage licenses are being issued in Rowan County, which the Kentucky Governor and Kentucky Attorney General have approved as valid, which are recognized by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and which are deemed acceptable by the couples who received them.”
That’s quite a sea change from Davis’ past filings. Remember, Davis has maintained, both in her own voice and in the voices of her attorneys, that it would be anathema for her to grant a marriage license to a same-sex couple since she would effectively be approving the marriage. Davis, a devout Apostolic/Oneness Pentecostal, maintained the Supreme Court and Governor Steve Beshear were forcing her to make “a Heaven or Hell decision.” She even went as far as to claim she was at risk for “irreparable injury” if she was forced to resume granting marriage licenses. Earlier this month, the Family Research Council gave Davis an award for her obstinacy, in the process, putting her on the same pedestal as a woman who was actually threatened with execution for not renouncing Christianity in favor of Islam.
Now Davis has tacitly admitted the licenses are indeed valid. Granted, that concession didn’t come without some prodding. After all, the area’s U. S. Attorney had all but announced that if Davis kept up her charade, he would have her charged with felony civil rights violations. Had Davis been convicted, she would have been automatically removed from office. As a convicted felon, she would have faced an uphill battle to get any job worth getting. She also faced the prospect of state charges for official misconduct, but unlike the federal charges, conviction on those wouldn’t have carried immediate removal from office.
Davis should be heavily fined for this latest stunt. After all, she almost certainly knew it would at least put the validity of the licenses into doubt. Her attorneys ought to be fined for this, as well. She almost certainly altered the forms on their advice, and they had to have known it could potentially invalidate the licenses. Still, it’s worth noting that Davis and her attorneys appear to have come to their senses. The stigma of being dragged into court for a criminal case that would result in all-but-certain conviction has a way of changing people’s perspective, doesn’t it?