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Who is Kim Davis, Kentucky clerk jailed over same-sex marriage licenses?

Posted at 6:01 PM, Sep 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-04 18:01:51-04

Same-sex marriage was supposed to be a settled matter in America — it’s a constitutional right — but the issue returned to headlines this month after a Kentucky county clerk refused to license those nuptials.

Here are eight things to know Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to abide by this summer’s historic ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage.

Who is Kim Davis?

Kim Davis is the publicly elected clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, which sits in the Appalachian Mountains.

She is a Democrat who was first elected last fall with 3,909 votes, or 53% of the vote. The county has 23,655 residents.

Though on the job only since January, Davis is hardly new to its demands.

Her mother was the county clerk for 37 years, and Davis worked 27 years for her.

Davis, 49, has spent her entire life in Rowan County, where 96% of people are white and more than a fourth live in poverty.

What did she do?

Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and defied the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, made in June.

“It is not a light issue for me. It is a heaven or hell decision,” Davis said in a statement, citing her religion.

Davis doesn’t want her name and title affixed to a same-sex marriage license “that goes down in the annals of Kentucky history,” said her attorney, Mat Staver.

Davis also refused to allow her six deputies to issue same-sex marriage licenses, even though five of them said they were willing to issue them.

Some of the five deputies said they hold the same religious beliefs as Davis, but they said they would nevertheless follow the law.

The sixth deputy is Davis’ son, Nathan, who didn’t give an answer when he appeared in court to discuss whether he would issue same-sex marriage licenses.

What is her faith?

Davis experienced a religious conversion 4½ years ago and became an Apostolic Christian, a faith which has a strict moral code. She attends Solid Rock Apostolic Church in the county seat of Morehead.

“She said she played in the devil’s playground for a long time, and her life has been radically changed since then,” attorney Staver said.

She has been married four times, including twice to the same man.

“I am not perfect. No one is,” Davis said in a statement. “But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to him and to the word of God.”

Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis was remanded into custody by U.S. District Judge David Bunning Thursday, September 3, 2015. Davis refused to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples stating doing so was against her religious beliefs.

Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis was remanded into custody by U.S. District Judge David Bunning Thursday, September 3, 2015. Davis refused to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples stating doing so was against her religious beliefs.

What happened after her defiance?

A federal judge declared Davis in contempt of court and threw her in jail.

Davis’ defense failed to sway the judge.

“You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul,” she told the judge, according to CNN affiliate WKYT-TV.

How long will she be in jail?

It could be a long time.

“Theoretically, it could be indefinite,” CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos said.

“It’s a fascinating area of the law. It’s a civil remedy in nature, but the effect is clearly incarceration,” he added, referring to penalties for contempt of court.

The judge ruled she will stay behind bars until she complies with the law.

Davis is an elected official who took an oath to uphold it.

Davis’ husband, Joe, told reporters this week that his wife was willing to stay in jail until a compromise happens.

“As long as it takes,” Joe Davis said. “Hopefully (Kentucky Gov. Steve) Beshear will have the guts to do his job.”

Could there be a compromise?

Davis’ supporters believe there could be a compromise, and her attorney said Davis would issue the licenses if her name and title were not on the documents.

The state legislature could pass a law allowing clerks to remove their names from the licenses, but lawmakers are out of session until January.

The governor won’t call for a special legislative session to deal with the issue, partly because such a gathering would cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

“The General Assembly will convene in four months and can make any statutory changes it deems necessary at that time,” the governor said. “The future of the Rowan County clerk continues to be a matter between her and the courts.”

Will she resign or step down? Can she be fired?

The governor has no legal authority to remove Davis and cannot use an executive order to relieve her of statutory duties, he said.

Meanwhile, Davis has no intention of resigning, her attorney said.

“She will remain the clerk of Rowan County as long as the people want her,” her attorney said.

How is she doing in jail?

She sleeps well and maintains a good spirit, her attorney said.

Her conscience is clean, even behind bars, the attorney added.

“She is a prisoner of conscience, if you will,” Staver stated. “She is prepared for the consequences.”

Her supporters remained surprised by the turns in the controversy.

“We did not anticipate we would be here with Kim Davis in an orange jumpsuit,” Staver told reporters.