Kim Davis was given a jail sentence for refusing to issue marriage licenses to eligible same-sex couples, but how is it that she can still keep her job? And what happens next?
Rowan County clerk Kim Davis was sent to jail Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Davis' continued and repeated refusal to issue marriage licenses to plaintiffs in a case decided last month led U.S. District Judge David Bunning to find Davis in contempt of court.
"The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order," Judge Bunning said, according to the New York Times. "If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that's what potentially causes problems."
"Her good-faith belief is simply not a viable defense," Bunning, who noted his own deeply held religious beliefs, added. "Oaths mean things."
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality earlier this year, and it's clear that Davis is violating that ruling by refusing to issue marriage licenses to all eligible applicants. So why is it that she can go to jail for not doing her job, but she can't be fired?
The answer may come as a surprise to many people, but Davis is an elected official and can't be fired in the traditional sense of the word. She can only be removed from office if the Kentucky House of Representatives charges her with an impeachable offense and the Kentucky Senate finds her guilty. That scenario is unlikely since Kentucky has a very conservative political climate.
Kentucky does not allow recall elections, and the state legislature does not re-convene until January 2016. Gov. Steve Beshear declined to have a special session to consider emergency legislation that would accommodate Davis, so it's likely we won't see any progress until the new year.
Davis will sit in jail until she resigns or agrees to obey the law and issue marriage licenses without regard for gender, or until the State of Kentucky removes her via impeachment, or until she loses an election. Judge Bunning, too, at some point will have to decide if keeping her in jail will have any effect. Generally, that could be as long as 18 months, but there's no hard and fast rule.
In the mean time, as of this morning, five of Davis' six deputy clerks have agreed to issue licenses to all couples. Davis' son is the one who has refused, and no word on his fate yet.
In the meantime, expect to see fundraising emails from religious rights groups and a possible book deal as Davis milks her fifteen minutes of fame. She has nothing else to do while in jail. Why not pen her memoir?
Image by JonathanPalmer via Twitter
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