Kim Davis back to jail? She’s interfering with marriage licenses.

Kim Davis May Be Heading Back to Jail

Kim Davis May Be Heading Back to Jail

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Sept. 22 2015 12:23 PM

Kim Davis May Be Heading Back to Jail

Kim Davis addresses the media just before the doors are opened to the Rowan County Clerk's Office in Morehead, Kentucky, Sept. 14, 2015.

Photo by Chris Tilley/Reuters

When U.S. District Judge David Bunning released anti-gay Kentucky clerk Kim Davis from jail, he did so on one condition: Davis was barred from interfering “in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”

As soon as Davis returned to the county clerk’s office, she began interfering.


First, Davis confiscated all the licenses issued to gay couples in her absence and provided a changed form. This new license deleted all mentions of the county, removed her name, and deleted every reference to the deputy clerks. She then replaced the deputy clerks’ names with the name of one clerk, Brian Mason. She also altered the form to describe Mason as a “notary public” rather than a deputy clerk. And, finally, she changed the forms to state that they are issued “Pursuant to Federal Court Order.” (BuzzFeed’s indispensable Dominic Holden snapped pictures of the modified forms.)

On Monday, the gay couples who had been issued these altered licenses asked Bunning to intervene. Davis’ doctored licenses, they argue, are so muddled and modified that they may be invalid under state law. And besides, Davis is blatantly violating Bunning’s order by interfering with her clerks. In his initial order, Bunning wrote that, if Davis “should interfere in any way” with the issuance of licenses, “it will be considered a violation of this Order and appropriate sanctions will be considered.” The couples ask Bunning only to fine Davis if she continues to defy his order. But we’ve heard this song before, and the judge may once again feel compelled to send Davis to jail to block her brazen mutilation of the licenses.

Will Davis’ supporters defend this latest chicanery? Given that they supported her decision to elevate herself above the rule of law, it’s difficult to imagine they’ll reconsider now. Still, illegally tampering with marriage licenses—perhaps with the intent to render them invalid—seems like a step beyond her initial law-breaking. Before, Davis was only telling same-sex couples to get married in a different county. Now she is actively sabotaging the legality of their marriage. That level of duplicity must be hard to endorse—even for those who think one public servant’s anti-gay beliefs should trump a binding Supreme Court ruling. 

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.