Clerk Kim Davis in custody for denying marriage licences

James Patrick Carraghan

James Patrick Carraghan is an award-winning activist, writer, librarian and student at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. He spends his free time gardening, hording books and flirting. You can follow him on tumblr at http://thelibrarynevercloses.tumblr.com/

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Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who has made international news for denying marriages to same-sex couples on the basis of her religious beliefs, was taken into custody on contempt of court charges on Thursday. Davis had previously petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to intervene in her favour earlier in the week – a request which was denied.

Davis has stated in court that signing a marriage licence is the equivalent of approving a marriage licence, which in the case of same-sex marriage would go against her religious beliefs as an Apostolic Christian. Davis said on Tuesday that she feared going to hell for violating ‘a central teaching’ of the Bible if she were to comply with previous orders to issue marriage licences.

Two other stories this past week raised doubts about Davis’s commitment to both her religious beliefs and her job. Camryn Colen, a transgender man, claimed that Kim Davis issued a marriage licence to him and his wife Alexis, in spite of the fact that Camryn’s birth certificate still identifies him as female.

‘She saw just a straight couple in love, and she should see everybody like that,’ Camryn Colen said. ‘She shouldn’t just see straight couples like that.’

More attention has been focused on Kim Davis’s personal life, which includes a complex marital history: four marriages, three of which ended in divorce. Davis also gave birth to twins who were fathered by the man who would later become her third husband, after divorcing her first husband.

Davis has refused to issue any marriage licences since the Supreme Court’s approval of same-sex marriage in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision handed down in June. (Obergefell v. Hodges established that marriage is a constitutional right for all citizens.)

The field of Republican presidential candidates have come to Davis’s defence. Rand Paul, a senator from Kentucky, said, ‘I think it’s absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberty. I think it’s a real mistake and even those on the other side of the issue, I think it sets their movement back.’

Former Governor Mike Huckabee tweeted: ‘Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubts about the criminalization of Christianity in this country. We must defend #ReligiousLiberty!’

Marco Rubio, a senator from Florida, said in a statement to the New York Times, ‘We should seek a balance between government’s responsibility to abide by the laws of our republic and allowing people to stand by their religious convictions.

‘While the clerk’s office has a governmental duty to carry out the law, there should be a way to protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of individuals working in the office.’

In a blog post for The American Conservative’s website, Rod Dreher presented a conservative argument against Davis’s position:

‘Religious liberty is hugely important, but it’s not a trump card. [Davis] should appoint someone in her office who has no sincere religious objection to providing same-sex couples with marriage licenses to handle the task. If she cannot in good conscious do this, she should resign.’

Previous to Thursday’s charges, Heather Weaver, an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), stated, ‘We are not asking that she go to jail, and nobody wants her to go to jail. We simply want her to do her job and follow the rule of law.’

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