Thursday, September 3, 2015

Does Kim Davis, Kentucky Clerk Blocking Gay Marriages, Have Legal Grounds?

 The county official in rural Kentucky who has become the focal point for resistance to the U.S. Supreme Court's gay marriage decision will appear this morning before a federal judge to explain why she should not be held in contempt of court.

The judge ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and all of her deputies to appear before him at 11 a.m. Lawyers for four couples who sought marriage licenses from her but were turned down urged the judge "to impose financial penalties sufficiently serious and increasingly onerous to compel Davis' immediate compliance without further delay."

 She stopped issuing marriage licenses a few hours after the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in June, saying that granting licenses to gay couples would violate her religious convictions.

Federal District Court Judge David Bunning last month ordered her to resume issuing the marriage licenses. She asked a federal appeals court and the US Supreme Court to lift his order, but both declined. Nonetheless, she has continued to defy it. [...]

 Lawyers for Davis said in court filings late Wednesday that she should not be held in contempt for disobeying the judge's August order, because she cannot obey it.

"Davis is unable to comply with the order," her lawyers say, "because it irreparably and irreversibly violates her conscience." They cite federal court decisions, including a U.S. Supreme Court case, holding that someone cannot be held in contempt when complying with an order is factually impossible.

 A question for the judge will be whether she is unable to comply or, instead, unwilling.
Her lawyers also say because the underlying issue — whether she has a constitutional right, on religious grounds, to refuse to issue marriage licenses — has yet to be decided, it's too soon to consider any question of contempt. 

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