The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday agreed to vacate a lower court’s injunctions against Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis and dismiss her pending appeals, giving her a clear victory in a fight over same-sex “marriage.”
“We celebrate this final victory for Kim Davis,” said Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, which fought the legal battle on Davis’ behalf.
“We asked the federal court of appeals to set aside the lower court injunctions against Kim Davis. The ACLU objected and today the court sided with Kim Davis. The injunctions are gone and Kim Davis received the accommodation that she requested. County clerks are no longer forced to compromise their religious liberty and conscience rights,” said Staver.
The fight erupted following the U.S. Supreme Court’s creation of same-sex “marriage” a year ago. That ruling was by the slimmest of margins – 5-4 – and included two judges, Elena Kagan and Ruth Ginsburg, who had publicly advocated for same-sex “marriage” while the case was pending, then refused to remove themselves from the decision-making process when asked to do so.
Without their votes, the same-sex “marriage” vote would have failed.
After the mandate, local officials across the nation faced various orders to issue marriage licenses to same-sex duos, and Davis, the Rowan County clerk in Kentucky, stopped issuing any licenses so all comers would be treated alike.
She requested a minor religious accommodation of having her name removed from those documents.
Then-Gov. Steve Beshear refused. When Davis refused orders from U.S. District Judge David Bunning to violate her religious beliefs, he jailed her without so much as due process.
However, when Gov. Matt Bevin took office shortly later, replacing Beshear, he issued an executive order providing that accommodation to Davis and others, and the state legislature later made it a law, so it cannot easily be overturned.
With the granting of the accommodation she requested, Davis asked for an end to the legal fight.
According to Liberty Counsel, the appeals court granted Davis’ motion to vacate the federal district court’s injunctions against her and dismiss her pending appeals, explaining, “This ruling completes Davis’ victory over the injunctions obtained by the ACLU and solidifies the religious liberty accommodation provided by the Kentucky general assembly and Gov. Matt Bevin when they amended Kentucky’s marriage licensing laws to remove the name and authorization of country clerks from marriage licenses issued by the Commonwealth.”
That was exactly what Davis had requested from the beginning of the fight, Liberty Counsel said.
It actually is on Thursday when Kentucky Senate Bill 216, granting Davis and other clerks a religious accommodation, takes effect, “modifying Kentucky law regarding the issuance and authorization of marriage licenses and, as a result, [making] moot Davis’ consolidated appeals.”
The bill removes entirely “a county clerk’s name, personal identifiers, and authorization from any license, thereby providing through a change in the law the very religious accommodation Davis sought from the beginning of this litigation,” Liberty Counsel noted.
Earlier court filings pointed out that Bunning ignored protections for Davis in both the state and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act in his activism for “gay marriage.”
“The district court … never considered the federal RFRA as applied to its finding of contempt, and it never entered any subsequent order addressing Davis’ federal RFRA defense to contempt,” the court record reveals.
“The federal RFRA provides that ‘government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability,’ except that ‘government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person – (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest.'”
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, despite fact that licenses could be obtained in nearby counties, same-sex activists sued Davis.
An earlier filing explained Bunning even refused to allow Davis due process in the case.
Staver had said: “Our Founding Fathers believed in the right to follow one’s conscience so much that they protected religious liberty in the First Amendment. The first Americans traveled to this faraway land for the right to exercise their religion according to their own hearts, not government mandate. From the Mayflower Compact to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell, no court precedent or legislative mandate says that same-sex marriage must be held at every wedding venue, photographed by a specific photographer, celebrated by all bakers, or, in this case, licensed by a particular clerk. Then and still today, Americans enjoy the free exercise of religion and the freedom to follow Biblical principles in their personal and professional lives.”
Liberty Counsel previously contended activists targeted Davis because they wanted to force their agenda on Christians.
“Rowan County is bordered by seven counties, and the clerks’ offices in these counties are within 30-45 minutes from the Rowan county clerk’s office. … More than ten other clerks’ offices are within a one-hour drive of the Rowan County clerk’s office, and these counties are issuing marriage licenses, along with the two counties where the preliminary injunction hearings were held in this matter.
“In fact, plaintiffs only attempted to obtain a marriage license from the Rowan County clerk’s office after becoming aware of Davis’ religious objections to [same-sex marriage],” a court filing argued.
The Kentucky case is just one of many of its kind nationwide in which plaintiffs are arguing the U.S. Supreme Court decision conflicts with the Constitution and, therefore, is invalid.