Shortly before the Labor Day weekend, a federal judge in Kentucky ordered the Rowan County clerk incarcerated for violating his orders. Five days later, he released her.
The judge found that the clerk, Kim Davis, interfered with the ability of same-sex couples in her county to marry by refusing to issue them applications for marriage licenses. Davis argued that she was following her conscience, which is grounded in a well-known Christian antipathy to same-sex marriages, which, in turn, is protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Here is the backstory.
Davis is the clerk of Rowan County, Ky. Among her duties as county clerk is the issuance of applications for marriage licenses. When she assumed office, she took an oath to administer her duties consistent with the U.S. Constitution. Her job with respect to licenses is ministerial: issuing documents to those who legally qualify for them and filing the documents when they are returned to her.
Kentucky law requires that applicants for marriage licenses be unmarried, residents of Kentucky and at least 18 years of age. As a county clerk, Davis cannot add to these requirements another requirement — namely, that the applicants be of the opposite sex. She cannot do that because the Supreme Court has ruled that marriage is a fundamental liberty, the exercise of which is protected by the Constitution, and within that liberty is the right to choose a same-sex marriage mate, uninterfered with by the state.
By adding her own requirement and using the force of law to enforce that requirement, she is frustrating the ruling of the Supreme Court, interfering with the fundamental liberties of marriage applicants, and violating her oath to uphold the Constitution, the final interpreter of which is the Supreme Court.
After Davis refused to comply with two of his orders to issue