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Kentucky Clerk Held In Contempt Of Court For Refusing To Issue Marriage Licenses


In Kentucky today, a county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses was found in contempt of court and taken into federal custody. Kim Davis had defied the U.S. Supreme Court, saying her religious views prevent her from signing off on same-sex marriages. Kentucky Public Radio's Ryland Barton was in the federal courtroom today in Ashland. He joins us now. Ryland, what did the judge say during this hearing?

RYLAND BARTON, BYLINE: Well, he found Kim Davis to be in contempt of his order for her to resume issuing marriage licenses. He ordered her to do that in August, and so he held her in contempt. On the table, they were deciding whether she was going to be fined or put in jail, and at the end of the day, he put her in jail. She's in custody right now in the federal courthouse here in Ashland. And he said here in the United States, we expect, at the end of the day, for the court's orders to be complied with. That's the way things work in America.

MARTIN: And you said he was thinking about fining her. He clearly wasn't convinced that was going to move her hand and get her to comply.

BARTON: Right. He just wasn't convinced. During cross-examination, the plaintiffs asked Davis if she had been raising money for her defense. And she testified that she hadn't been raising money or requesting money, but people had been sending money. And so it seemed that the judge's opinion ended up being swayed by that - if she has this some amount of money on hand to just end up paying fines, that she wouldn't end up being - that she wouldn't feel the force to comply with his order.

MARTIN: You were inside the courtroom. What was it like? What was the mood?

BARTON: It was pretty tense, especially after the judge held her in contempt and put her in custody. I was sitting next to Ms. Davis's husband, and he was - he spent pretty much the whole second half of the day talking during the proceedings and disagreeing with the judge's decision. And not only was she held in contempt, but her deputy clerks were also threatened with contempt if they didn't obey his ruling or obey his order from August to resume issuing marriage licenses.

So they spent quite a bit of time asking each deputy clerk - they were each given an attorney - a court-appointed attorney - and they were each asked if they were - if they would comply with the law with his ruling. And 5 out of 6 said they would. The one lone person who said he wouldn't comply was actually - he's a deputy clerk, and he's also Kim Davis's son.

MARTIN: So what does all this mean for those who live in Rowan County who want to get a marriage license? Can they do that now?

BARTON: Well, it's a little unclear right now what the current status is. I mean, there are these deputy clerks who agree that they will sign off on marriage licenses for all couples, but it's still in question whether or not, you know, those marriage licenses would be valid. Ms. Davis's defense came back with a message from her saying that any marriage licenses that were issued by these clerks to same-sex couples would be - would go against her wishes and against her office 'cause she is the elected official - the elected county clerk of Rowan County right now.

MARTIN: Kentucky Public Radio's Ryland Barton in Ashland, Ky. That's where County Clerk Kim Davis was found in contempt of court and taken into custody today. She refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Ryland, thanks so much.

BARTON: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryland Barton
Ryland is the state capitol reporter for the Kentucky Public Radio Network, a group of public radio stations including WKU Public Radio. A native of Lexington, Ryland has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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