Free to Believe

Kim Davis

Rowan County Courthouse: Morehead, Kentucky

Following the Supreme Court’s June 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges declaring that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis found herself in a unique and challenging position. As a county clerk, part of her job required that marriage licenses be issued from her office bearing her signature. But as a believing Christian, she decided that she had to take a stand for the freedom to do what her conscience demanded. When same-sex couples came to the courthouse to obtain marriage licenses, they were told that licenses were not being issued.

"It wasn't just a spur-of-the-moment decision," Davis said. "It was thought out, and I sought God on it." So why couldn’t she just “do her job” and issue the licenses, as many demanded that she do? For Kim, the answer was clear: "I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God's definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience."

In order to solve this dilemma, the U.S. already has an established legal principle: religious accommodation. As has been noted by legal scholars Craig Bertschi and Nathan S. Chapman, "the Free Exercise Clause requires some religious accommodations." Indeed, some 2,000 of them now exist. But when Davis appealed to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to protect clerks with moral objections to the new Supreme Court mandate, he declined. In September, Federal district judge David L. Bunning held Davis in contempt and ordered that she be taken into custody, where she would be held until she complied with the court’s order to issue marriage licenses. Five days later, she was finally released. Marriage licenses are now being issued from her office without her name appearing on them, but her legal battle is not over—left-wing activists are currently working to have her removed from office. She is being legally represented by Liberty Counsel, an international nonprofit dedicated to advancing religious freedom.

"I don't want to have this conflict. I don't want to be in the spotlight. And I certainly don't want to be a whipping post," Kim says. "I am no hero. I'm just a person that's been transformed by the grace of God, who wants to work, be with my family. I just want to serve my neighbors quietly without violating my conscience."

Photo: © Family Research Council