MOREHEAD, Ky. (AP) — After a five-day stint in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis will return to work as soon as Friday to face another day of reckoning.
The apostolic Christian, now a symbol of strong religious conviction to thousands across the globe, would not say whether she would allow licenses to continue to be issued or try to block them once again, defying a federal court order that could send her back to jail.
Davis walked out of the Carter County Detention Center’s front door Tuesday, arm in arm with her lawyer and with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee as thousands of supporters cheered and waved white crosses backed by a 150-voice church choir. Some in the crowd sang “Amazing Grace” and “God Bless America.”
Davis will take a couple of days off from work to spend with her family and will return to work Friday or Monday, according to an emailed statement from Charla Bansley, a spokeswoman for Liberty Counsel, the Christian law firm representing Davis. The statement did not say whether Davis would allow her office to grant licenses.
At 8 a.m. Wednesday, her office — at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead — opened as scheduled. Deputy clerk Brian Mason said the office would issue licenses to anyone seeking them. He added that if Davis returns to work and tells him to stop, he’ll tell her that he can’t obey and instead must follow a federal judge’s order to issue licenses.
In lifting the contempt order against Davis, U.S. District Judge David Bunning said he was satisfied that her deputies were fulfilling their obligation to grant licenses to same-sex couples in her absence. But Bunning’s order was clear: If Davis interferes with the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples upon her return, she could go right back to jail.
“Kim cannot and will not violate her conscience,” said Mat Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, the Christian law firm representing Davis. As for whether she will issue licenses, Staver said only: “You’ll find out in the near future.”
Staver said the licenses issued to same-sex couples by Davis’ employees last week were not valid because they were not given under Davis’ authority. But the Kentucky attorney general’s office said it believes otherwise.
Attorney General Jack Conway also says that for now, he won’t appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the claim that Davis committed a crime when she refused to issue licenses. One couple who was rejected had asked the local prosecutor to look into whether Davis could be charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor in Kentucky applicable to public officials who neglect their duties. Rowan County Attorney Cecil Watkins cited a conflict of interest and passed the complaint to Conway.
But in a one-sentence statement Wednesday, Conway noted that Davis’ actions are being monitored already: “Judge Bunning and the federal court have control of this matter, and therefore a special state prosecutor is not necessary at this time.”