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Here's What We Know About The Kentucky Clerk Refusing Marriage Licenses

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis (right) talks with David Moore on Tuesday morning following her refusal to issue a marriage license to him and his partner at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky.
Timothy D. Easley
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis (right) talks with David Moore on Tuesday morning following her refusal to issue a marriage license to him and his partner at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky.

Defying legal decisions that go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Ky.., clerk, continued to deny marriage licenses on Wednesday in protest of same-sex marriage.

As Kentucky Public Radio's Ryland Barton reports, Davis, who has become a divisive figure in the national debate on same-sex marriage, has been summoned to a federal court on Thursday for a hearing on whether to hold her in contempt.

With that, here's what we know about Davis:

-- She's A Born-Again Christian: The Associated Press reports that Davis' life changed in a church about four years ago.

The preacher, according to the AP, was speaking about the book of Galatians, and Davis repented for her sins and "pledged the rest of her life to the service of the Lord."

In a statement, Davis explained that she decided to go to church that day to honor the dying wish of her mother-in-law.

"There I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ," she wrote. "I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God."

-- She Has Cited Her Religious Views For Her Stance: Davis has said her religious beliefs have driven her to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses.

In court, she testified that she prayed and fasted before making the decision to defy the highest court of the land.

"It wasn't just a spur-of-the-moment decision," she testified, according to The Courier-Journal. "It was thought out, and I sought God on it."

The newspaper reports:

"On the stand ... Davis described herself as an Apostolic Christian who believes marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman under the Bible — 'God's holy word' — and said she contemplated her policy for months beforehand.

"She choked back tears at times as she argued that issuing licenses under her name would violate her religious beliefs, even if a deputy clerk performs the task in her stead.

" 'If I say they are authorized, I'm saying I agree with it, and I can't,' Davis said."

-- Davis Has Been Divorced Three Times: According to marriage licenses obtained by BuzzFeed, Davis has been married four times — twice to the same man.

She first married at age 18 in 1984. She later married Joe Davis in 1996. She married a third time in 2007 and then married Davis again in 2009.

Her marriage record has been used by critics to point out what they see as Davis' hypocrisy. During a tense standoff with a gay couple on Tuesday, one man pointedly asked her what was the longest she had been with one partner.

In response, Davis' attorney said that Davis acknowledged she had made "major mistakes" in the past.

"She's regretful and sorrowful," her attorney Mat Staver said, according to the AP. "That life she led before is not the life she lives now. She asked for and received forgiveness and grace. That's why she has such a strong conscience."

-- She Was Elected To Her Position: Davis, a Democrat, won a 2014 election for Rowan County clerk handily — 53 percent to 46 percent.

Davis took the keys of the office from her mother, Jean Bailey, who held the position for 37 years.

The night Davis won, she gave an interview to The Morehead News.

"My words can never express the appreciation but I promise to each and every one that I will be the very best working clerk that I can be and will be a good steward of their tax dollars and follow the statutes of this office to the letter," Davis said.

-- She Can't Be Fired: Because Davis is an elected official and is accountable to the voters, she can't be fired from her job.

According to a report by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, Davis would have to be removed by the legislature. According to the Kentucky constitution, she would have to be impeached by the state's House of Representatives and tried by the state's Senate.

As the Research Commission points out, "because it is a reversal of the inherent power of the people in a democratic society to choose those who govern, it is a power rarely exercised."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: September 1, 2015 at 11:00 PM CDT
An earlier version of this post said that Kim Davis can be removed by the state Supreme Court's chief justice. In fact, Davis would have to be impeached by the Legislature.
Eyder Peralta is an international correspondent for NPR. He was named NPR's Mexico City correspondent in 2022. Before that, he was based in Cape Town, South Africa.
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