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Judge orders Davis freed from jail

ASHLAND, Ky. (BP) — A federal judge freed Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis from jail Tuesday (Sept. 8).

David Bunning, a federal judge in Ashland, Ky., ordered Davis’ release after he became convinced the deputy clerks in her Rowan County office had obeyed his order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. He ordered Davis to jail Sept. 3 when she again refused to comply with his previous order to grant licenses.

In a two-page order, Bunning said Davis’ release was on the condition she not “interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples,” according to the newspaper. He would consider “appropriate sanctions” if Davis interferes, Bunning said.

Liberty Counsel, which is representing Davis, did not confirm immediately whether Davis would obey Bunning’s order, The Courier-Journal reported.

Deputy clerks in Davis’ office began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Sept. 4. After Bunning sent Davis to jail for contempt of court, five of the six deputy clerks told the judge Sept. 3 they would comply with his order.

Liberty Counsel had asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in two filings to provide for Davis’ release. On Sept. 8, it requested the Sixth Circuit Court block Bunning’s contempt of court order. The day before, the legal team urged the appeals court to halt enforcement of Gov. Steven Beshear’s order for all county clerks to issue licenses bearing their names to gay couples.

Davis’ jailing is the latest repercussion from the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Citing her Christian beliefs about marriage, Davis halted the issuance of licenses from her office to all couples after the opinion.

Some Republican presidential candidates have rallied support for her cause. An “I’m With Kim” rally — sponsored by candidate Mike Huckabee — was scheduled for 3 p.m. EDT Sept. 8. Huckabee and another GOP candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, reportedly were to meet with Davis in jail the same day. Since her jailing, crowds have gathered outside the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Ky., to support her.

After a Sept. 7 visit with Davis, Liberty Counsel lawyer Harry Mihet said, “She exudes gentleness and is at peace. Her spirits remain high. She was brought to tears when she heard that so many people outside the jail and around the country are praying for her.”

Davis — Mihet said in a written statement — wanted to share a Bible passage with the public from 2 Timothy 1:7-8: “God did not give us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control. Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in the suffering for the Gospel and the power of God.”

Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, defended Davis Sept. 6 on ABC’s “This Week” television program.

Citing instances when Democratic officials ignored bans on same-sex marriage in the past, Huckabee said, “So when is it that liberals get to choose which laws they support? But a county clerk in Kentucky … , acting on her Christian faith, is criminalized, jailed without bail, because she acted on her conscience and according to the only law that is in front of her.”

Despite Davis’ request for the Kentucky legislature to pass a bill to protect her rights of conscience while maintaining her clerk’s job, Beshear has declined to call a special session, according to the Associated Press. The legislature is not scheduled to convene until January.

Religious freedom advocates, including leaders of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, have called for Beshear, a Democrat, and the state legislature to act to resolve the dilemma. The government could solve the impasse by providing accommodations for county clerks with conscientious objections, they have said. Among the accommodations suggested in Davis’ case by Liberty Counsel are removing her name from marriage licenses and permitting the county’s chief executive to issue licenses.

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in June heightened concerns among religious liberty promoters regarding the threat legalized gay marriage poses to Christian individuals and institutions, as well as other defenders of biblical, traditional marriage.

The opinion prompted some country clerks to resign their jobs rather than issue licenses to gay couples, while others have held onto their jobs while refusing to provide licenses. In the private sector, some businesses were closed even before the Supreme Court ruling as a result of the owners’ refusal to compromise their belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Wedding vendors — including florists, photographers and bakers — have been especially vulnerable in states where gay marriage was already legal.

Davis, a Democrat, has been described in news reports as an Apostolic Christian. She actively participates in her church and leads a weekly Bible study at a local jail, according to a legal document filed with the federal court.

Author: Tom Strode

Tom Strode serves as Washington correspondent for Baptist Press.

View more articles by Tom Strode.

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