Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk who has continued to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples (and straight couples in the process) in defiance of the Supreme Court's landmark marriage equality ruling in June, was found in contempt of court on Thursday morning (Sept. 3).
U.S. District Judge David Bunning issued the order after Davis steadfastly held to her claim that she couldn't issue licenses to same-sex couples because to do so would conflict with her religious beliefs. After Bunning issued the ruling, Davis was escorted out of the courtroom and placed in the custody of a federal marshall, according to Cincinnati.com.
Bunning said Davis, an Apostolic Christian, is free to go as soon as she complies with the court's order to issue marriage licenses to all who apply -- but until then she'll remain in jail. He said that it was clear fines weren't enough to force Davis to comply with previous orders to do her $80,000-a-year job and that allowing her to keep holding out would have a "ripple effect."
"Her good-faith belief is simply not a viable defense," the judge said. "Oaths mean things ... If you give people opportunity to choose what orders they follow, that is what potentially causes problems."
In a profile of Davis that ran in a local paper the morning of the ruling, the devoutly religious 44-year-old clerk was described as someone who, until four years ago, "seemed an unlikely candidate to wage a moral war over the institution of marriage."
Before being born again, Davis had been divorced three times and has been with her current husband -- self-described "old redneck hillbilly" Joe Davis -- for 19 years. It's unclear how long they've been married -- for the second time -- though she did have another marriage and divorce to someone else in between their time together.
According to reports, the clerk married for the first time at age 18, then divorced, had two children out of wedlock, married Davis in 1996, divorced him a decade later, was briefly married to another man, and then re-married Davis in 2009.
"She made some mistakes," said Mat Staver, founder of the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel, which is representing Kim Davis. "She's regretful and sorrowful. That life she led before is not the life she lives now. She asked for and received forgiveness and grace. That's why she has such a strong conscience."
Thursday's ruling came down as 100 protesters stood outside the courthouse, some waving signs in support of marriage equality and others holding ones with religious messages or Bible verses. Davis was described as being tearful during the court proceeding, testifying that she could not obey the judge's order and that God's law trumps the court. "My conscience will not allow it," she told the judge. "God's moral law convicts me and conflicts with my duties."
Marriage equality supporters held signs reading "love all," while a plane flew overhead trailing a sign that said, "Stand fast, Kim" and others shouted "Go Kim Go!"
Court was slated to reconvene at press time, at which point Davis' deputies were expected to tell the judge whether they will comply with the order or risk jail.