LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis has lost her latest effort to stall issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, one of a fast-growing collection of rejected appeals.
Davis, fresh out of jail for defying a federal judge, again asked the judge to postpone his mandate that she license all couples.
Davis, elected as a Democrat in rural Rowan County, sparked a fiery debate about religious freedom and the rule of law when she refused to issue any licenses after a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in June effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit against Davis on behalf of four couples, two straight and two gay. U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning ordered her to issue the licenses, not only to those four couples but also to any other qualified to be married.
Davis ignored him, lost a string of appeals then spent five days in jail. Her deputies began issuing altered documents while she was behind bars, including to both gay couples who sued her.
Her attorneys with the Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based firm that opposes gay rights, asked the appeals court to toss Bunning's order that expanded the licensing mandate to all couples, arguing that because the couples who sued her received a license, she should not have to issue any more while the case is pending.
The appeals court denied the request last week on the legal technicality that her lawyers did not first ask the district judge for a delay, as federal court rules require. Davis' legal team redirected the appeal to Bunning, who rejected it Tuesday.
"It would essentially allow her to reinstate her 'no marriage licenses' policy during the pendency of the appeal and likely violate the constitutional right of eligible couples," the judge wrote.
Mat Staver, her attorney, called the request with the district judge "a formality" that had to be completed before asking the appeals court to consider it again.
He said they will soon file the same motion with the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
The ACLU, meanwhile, has asked the judge to order Davis to reissue the licenses, which were altered to remove Davis' name, job title and county. Both Davis and the couples who sued her questioned the validity of the edited documents.
The ACLU has asked Bunning to consider penalizing Davis again if she continues to refuse to issue the licenses, including placing her office under a receivership, which would allow another person to oversee the marriage licensing process.
The judge has not yet responded to that request.
Bunning on Wednesday dismissed Davis' arguments that she is likely to suffer irreparable harm by having to issue the licenses.
"This argument is unpersuasive because Davis has created her own risk of harm by violating a valid order issued by this court," Bunning wrote, adding: "As for the public interest, the court simply notes that the public has an interest in the enforcement of valid court orders."