FRANKFORT, Ky. — A federal appeals court has denied a stay of a lower court order declaring that a Kentucky county clerk must issue marriage licenses to homosexuals and their partners despite her Christian convictions not to be a partaker in other’s sins.
As previously reported, Kim Davis, clerk of Rowan County, has been the subject of a federal suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of two homosexuals and their partners, and well as two opposite-sex couples, after she declined to issue any marriage licenses of any kind following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
But Davis also sued Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, after he declared in a letter that all county clerks must issue licenses to homosexuals despite their identity as a Christian.
“Neither your oath nor the Supreme Court dictates what you must believe. But as elected officials, they do prescribe how we must act,” he wrote.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled in the ACLU case, making similar statements as Beshear—that Davis may have the free exercise of religion in her private life, but cannot live out her convictions while serving as clerk.
While on the job, Bunning limited Davis’ Christianity to head knowledge about homosexuality as opposed to a whole-life identity that excludes her from being a facilitator of other men’s sins. (1 Timothy 5:22)
“Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs,” he wrote. “She may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County jail. She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do. However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County clerk.”
Attorneys for Davis immediately filed an appeal and a request for a stay and counseled her not to issue any licenses in the interim.
But on Wednesday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Bunning and said that Davis must issue licenses due to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, denying the desired stay.
“In light of the binding holding of Obergefell, it cannot be defensibly argued that the holder of the Rowan County Clerk’s office, apart from who personally occupies that office, may decline to act in conformity with the United States Constitution as interpreted by a dispositive holding of the United States Supreme Court,” wrote the three-judge panel, comprised of Damon Keith, John Rogers and Bernice Donald.
“There is thus little or no likelihood that the clerk in her official capacity will prevail on appeal,” they said.
Attorneys for Davis with the Christian legal organization Liberty Counsel are now considering their options, including filing an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. They state that they will also inquire of the district court whether Davis is required to personally issue the licenses, or whether someone else in her office may do so instead.
“It is disappointing, certainly for our client, because the ramifications of the ruling is that there are no religious freedom rights for individuals if you can say a case is just against the office,” founder Matt Staver told the Herald Leader. “They don’t lose their constitutional or statutory rights by virtue of working in a public office.”