Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality ruling, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to any couple based on her religious beliefs about marriage for same-sex couples. On July 1, 2015, two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples represented by the ACLU of Kentucky, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky against Kim Davis in order to get marriage licenses.
On August 12, 2015, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled that plaintiffs in this case must be able to obtain marriage licenses in Rowan County. Davis proceeded to appeal that decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and when her request for a stay pending appeal was denied, she requested a stay pending appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court so that she may continue to refuse issuing marriage licenses.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied, without dissent Davis' request for a stay on an order from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that required her to issue marriage licenses immediately to couples in the case.
When Davis wouldn't follow the court order, we filed a motion to hold Davis in contempt of court. We asked the court to impose steep monetary fines on Davis to induce her to comply with the injunction and issue marriage licenses to local couples like our clients.
Judge Bunning found Davis in contempt of court, and decided that financial sanctions were insufficient to induce her compliance with the court’s order and remanded her to the Carter County Detention Center. The court also granted a motion filed by the ACLU to clarify that marriage licenses must be issued to all eligible couples in Rowan County, not just the four named couples in this case.
On September 8, 2015, Judge Bunning released Davis from custody of the U.S. Marshals under order that she not interfere with deputy clerks issuing marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.
Davis appealed the District Court's decision to the Sixth Circuit of Appeals in November 2015. On June 21, 2016, Davis filed a Motion to Dismiss the case as a result of a Kentucky Senate Bill that modified the Kentucky marriage license by removing the names and signatures of county clerks. The dismissal was granted on July 13, 2016, and the case was remanded to the District Court. On August 18, 2016 The District Court dismissed the case in light of the Sixth Circuit decision and the continued issuance of marriage licenses without incident.
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Appeals Court (6th Cir.)
District Court (E.D. Ky.)