Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin gave Kim Davis and all the other county clerks in the state a “wonderful Christmas gift” by protecting their religious rights and freedom.
Bevin issued an executive order two weeks after taking office that removes the names of all county clerks from marriage licenses issued in Kentucky. Staver said that will enable Davis and all other county clerks to do their jobs — issue marriage licenses to everyone, including same-sex couples — without compromising their religious principles.
Davis vaulted from her little county clerk’s office in Rowan County, Ky., to an international stage when she defied a federal court order to sign a marriage license for a gay couple, following the Supreme Court ruling in June 2015 that legalized gay marriage.
The ACLU filed suit against Davis, representing four of the couples who were turned away in Rowan County.
Davis never knuckled under. Why would she? Davis steadfastly maintained she was acting “under God’s authority.” That adherence to Biblical principle cost the 50-year-old woman five days in the county jail.
While she was released from her cell to a hero’s welcome, Davis faced a future that seemed to include continued court action — and legal bills — thanks to the ACLU and other proponents of LGBT rights.
However, Staver, whose Liberty Counsel team represented Davis in court, said her legal odyssey is finally over.
“Kim can celebrate Christmas with her family knowing she does not have to choose between her public office and her deeply-held religious convictions,” Staver said. “What former Gov. Beshear could have done but refused to do, Gov. Bevin did with this executive order.”
But maybe her journey is not over?
The ACLU of Kentucky went back to court in November claiming the idea that the “adulterated licenses” that did not have the signatures of county clerks were not valid under Kentucky law.
“We continue to fight for the loving couples who hold marriage licenses of questionable validity and for those who are waiting to legalize their unions until this issue is resolved,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Project.
“Kim Davis has been out of line and in violation of the law since last June,” he added. “No one should be treated differently under the law because of the religious beliefs of a public official.”
Former Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear filed an appeal brief in the case with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Dec. 3, supporting the ACLU’s arguments.
Staver said Beshear’s appeal and the ACLU’s case weren’t worth the paper they were printed on because Gov. Bevin had changed Kentucky law regarding county clerk signatures on marriage licenses.
“Gov. Steven Beshear and his anti-religious liberty ideology lost the election, and he has lost the battle against religious liberty and Kim Davis,” Staver said.
Not so fast, said William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky. He argued Bevin’s executive order only added to the “cloud of uncertainty that hangs over marriage licensing in Kentucky.”
Sharp said the requirement that a county clerk’s name appears on marriage licenses is prescribed by Kentucky law and Gov. Bevin does not have the authority to change that.
“Government officials, from the highest to the lowest, have a duty and responsibility to impartially administer the laws that exist,” Sharp said, “not the laws as they wish them to be.”
“And the ACLU will continue to challenge government officials who disregard the law in favor of promoting their own personal beliefs to the detriment of the rights of others.”
Bevin left no doubt that his action on behalf of county clerks in Kentucky who agree with Davis was motivated by the belief that religious freedom trumps all.
“To ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored I took action to revise the Clerk marriage license form,” he continued.
“Through today’s Executive Order the name of the County Clerk is no longer required to appear on the revised marriage license form,” Bevin posted on his Twitter account.
Davis told an Associated Press reporter the day after Bevin issued Executive Order 2015-048 that she doesn’t regret a day of her battle against signing gay marriage certificates.
“No one would ever have remembered a county clerk that just said … ‘Even though I don’t agree with it, it’s OK. I’ll do it,'” Davis said. “If I could be remembered for one thing, it’s that I was not afraid to not compromise myself.”
Davis also respectfully disagreed with Staver’s assertion that her cause rallied conservatives in Kentucky to support Bevin, and in effect handed him the election.
She also downplayed her role in the fight for religious liberty and the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.
After all, Davis has been married four times, divorced three times, and gave birth to twins five months after her first divorce, before she became a born-again Christian four years ago.
“How ironic that God would use a person like me, who failed so miserably at marriage in the world, to defend it now,” Davis said. “The Lord picks the unlikely source to convey the message.”