County Clerk Kim Davis has refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses
Legal efforts by a county clerk in Kentucky to avoid issuing same-sex marriage licenses because of her religious beliefs have been dealt a major blow.
On Wednesday, a US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit told homophobic public servant Kim Davis that her personal views should have no bearing on her obligation to fulfil her job.
Davis and her office in Rowan County stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether rather than be forced to recognise same-sex marriages.
She did this in defiance of the US Supreme Court’s June ruling legalising these unions and despite orders by the governor of Kentucky.
Davis, who was sued by a number of couples, was earlier ordered by Judge David Bunning to obey the law, although he temporarily suspended his order pending an appeal.
Wednesday’s ruling by the Court of Appeals struck down this suspension, and devastatingly said that Davis’ appeal to defend her “unilateral” decision to discriminate against same-sex couples had little chance of success.
The panel of three judges ruled that Davis cannot defensibly argue that she “may decline to act in conformity with the United States Constitution as interpreted by a dispositive holding of the United States Supreme Court.”
They added that, “There is thus little or no likelihood that the Clerk in her official capacity will prevail on appeal.”
The court also agreed that when a public official speaks or act in that role, he or she does so “as the government entity, not the individual”.
“Public servants have a responsibility to serve the entire public, including LGBT people,” commented JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs.
“Freedom of religion is important, and Ms. Davis has the fundamental right to believe what she likes, but as a public servant she does not have the right to pick and choose which laws she will follow or which services she will provide. If Ms. Davis feels as though she cannot fulfil her responsibilities, she should resign her public position,” said Winterhof.
It is not clear if Davis will continue to refuse to serve same-sex couples, risking contempt of court and jail time, or will finally start doing her job.
The Liberty Counsel, a homophobic “religious freedom” organisation that is defending Davis in court, plans to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.