ASHLAND, Ky. (WKYT/AP) - Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who refused to comply with repeated orders to issue marriage licenses, was held in contempt of court Thursday and sent to jail.
Davis, 49, was booked at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Carter County jail. She after a hearing that stretched through much of the day Thursday.
Davis was held in contempt for refusing to comply with a federal court order from U.S. District Judge David Bunning that told her to begin issuing marriage licenses.
Davis and her deputies stopped issuing licenses to all couples in June after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Despite rulings against her, she's turned away couples again and again, citing her Christian beliefs and "God's authority."
The ACLU filed a lawsuit against Davis on behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples. After Davis refused to comply with the judge's latest order -- and following multiple attempts to delay or appeal the order -- an order was filed to hold Davis in contempt of court.
Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ACLU is "gratified that our clients will finally receive their marriage licenses."
"It should never have been an issue," Shapiro said. "As Judge Bunning has made crystal clear, public officials may not ignore the law. We have reached this point only because Ms. Davis chose to defy the court’s order and place her own personal views ahead of the Constitution. Ms. Davis had a choice to make and she has made it. The judge then responded in the way he thought most appropriate to ensure that the law was obeyed.”
Bunning said it was a difficult, but necessary decision to hold Davis in contempt. The action came after an emotional day for Davis and her deputies. And it came after Davis twice refused to agree to issue marriage licenses.
An emotional hearing
During the nearly two-hour hearing Thursday morning, Davis testified for about 20 minutes and was very emotional. She talked about when she became a Christian, and said that her dying mother-in-law inspired her to seek God.
"I’ve done a lot of vile and wicked things," a tearful Davis said. "I’ve seen her (mom) surrounded by kindness. He touched me that night. I know I will never be the same. I promise to love him with all my mind, body and soul because I want to make heaven my home.”
Bunning acknowledged the role that religion can play in someone's life, but said that should not interfere with their ability to do their job. The judge said he is Catholic and the Catholic church says you must have an annulment before you can get remarried. He asked Davis: What would prevent a Catholic clerk from not issuing a marriage license to a divorced person?
Davis told the judge: "You can't be separated from something that's in your heart and in your soul."
The couples who originally sued Davis had asked Bunning to fine her, but did not request jail time. Bunning said he could not fine Davis because someone would pay the fine on her behalf. Bunning said he found her in contempt, but that was not something he took lightly, but "it was necessary."
The judge said he would send her to jail until she agreed to begin issuing marriage licenses. Davis said "thank you" before a U.S. Marshal led her out of the courtroom.
Afterward, Attorney Laura Landenwich said they did not want her to go to jail.
"That was not our request," Landenwich said. "We were hopeful that a monetary penalty would gain compliance so it really is unfortunate but Judge Bunning did what he felt was necessary in order to gain compliance."
A second chance
After dealing with Davis, Bunning shifted his focus to her deputy clerks, all of whom were ordered to appear before him Thursday. Bunning gave them 30 minutes to consult with public defenders, but when they returned he wanted to know whether they were going to comply with his order -- or join Davis in jail.
Five of the six deputy clerks told Bunning that they would comply and issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
One of the clerks cried when she told Bunning that she would be willing to issue marriage licenses. The clerk said she didn’t agree with it, but she would follow the order. Davis' son, Nathan, refused, but Bunning said he would not be fined or jailed since the other deputies agreed to issue the licenses.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs proposed allowing Davis out of custody if she agreed to not interfere with marriage licenses for gay couples.
Bunning agreed to the proposal, but when the hearing resumed, Davis told the judge that she'd rather stay in jail than allow her deputies to issue marriage licenses. After that refusal, Bunning ordered her back to jail and she was whisked away in a caravan to the Carter County Detention Center, where several supporters had gathered to show their support.
After news trickled out that Davis had been jailed, hundreds of people outside the courthouse started chanting and screaming, "Love won! Love won!"
A swelling crowd of protesters and supporters gathered outside the steps of the courthouse, which also was swarmed by local and national media covering the hearing. Some of those in the crowd were yelling, others were using megaphones to share their feelings -- good or bad -- about Davis. The gathering was loud, passionate and the two groups got nose-to-nose at times. But, all told, it was peaceful.
Adrianna Poplon, who opposes Kim Davis, said she would "love to get paid $80,000 a year to not do my job."
"People need to have equal rights," Poplon said.
Mike Lawson, who supports Kim Davis, saw things differently. He said it boils down to scripture.
"This is coming against the holy word of God," Lawson said. "According to the holy bible, 1 Corinthians 6 says no homosexual shall inherit the land of God."
The large crowd in Ashland apparently replaced the one that had been forming for nearly two months in Rowan County.
Things were quiet in Rowan County during Thursday's hearing. No protesters were outside, which is quite a change from what has become the norm there. A sign, on Kim Davis letterhead, was taped to the door of the clerk's office that said the office would be closed Thursday to attend a federal court hearing.
"We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and we will be open Friday morning, September 4, 2015 for normal business," the sign said. "Thank you!!"
People who work in the building told WKYT that Davis opted to close her office Thursday because she had no idea what would happen following the hearing in Ashland.
Not everyone was aware that the office was closed. Residents sprinkled in by the minute, many of them were not in search of a marriage license; they needed some of the other services offered by the clerk's office, such as renewing their tags.
Austin Trent was among those who showed up Thursday morning and was greeted by that sign.
"It's a hassle that we have to wake up in the morning and deal with this nonsense," Trent said. "It's stressful for everybody to drag out to such proportion."
After court proceedings wrapped up, some protesters and supporters headed to Rowan County.
Erica Gardner said she was glad Davis went to jail.
"Why? Because I support the gay community," she said.
A woman who knelt in prayer outside the clerk's office said she hopes Davis stays strong.
"I would say Kim Davis stand firm and we're standing with you and God is standing with you and the Angels are standing with you and you are not alone."
Audible gasp in the courtroom as Kim Davis was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals.— Victor Puente (@thevictorpuente) September 3, 2015
After the break her attorneys said she would not grant her authority to any of her employees to issue those licenses.— Victor Puente (@thevictorpuente) September 3, 2015
Supporters in front of jail praying for strength for Kim Davis and for articles of impeachment against Judge Bunning. pic.twitter.com/RMjRaCjJXL— Garrett Wymer (@GarrettWKYT) September 3, 2015
A growing group of Kim Davis supporters has shown up here outside the Carter Co. Detention Center. pic.twitter.com/IjEp3rjN7K— Garrett Wymer (@GarrettWKYT) September 3, 2015
What the nation said about Kim Davis
Here's the latest
The latest on the county clerk in Kentucky who has refused to issue marriage licenses since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage (all times local):
An attorney for the couples who sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis over her refusal to issue marriage licenses says she "holds the keys to her jail cell."
Attorney Laura Landenwich made the comments Thursday outside the courthouse after a judge jailed Davis for contempt of court. Davis has refused to follow the judge's order to issue the licenses.
Davis' attorney Roger Gannam said that this is the first time in history that an American has been jailed for believing in their conscience.
Five of the six deputy clerks told U.S. District Judge David Bunning that will hand out marriage licenses to gay couples beginning Friday. The lone holdout is Davis' son.
A defiant county clerk in Kentucky who has refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples says she will not accept a compromise that would have let her out of jail.
Attorneys for gay couples had proposed that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis be let out of custody if she promised not to interfere with her deputies, but the clerk refused.
Five of the six deputies have told U.S. District Judge David Bunning that that they will issue the licenses, though some of them said they were reluctant to do so.
The lone holdout is Davis' son. The judge says he won't face any fine or jail time since the other deputies have agreed to issue the licenses.
The White House says no one is above the law, including a Kentucky county clerk who was sent to jail for contempt after refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
President Barack Obama has yet to express his views on the matter, but White House press secretary Josh Earnest says "on principle, that the success of our democracy depends on the rule of law, and there's no public official that is above the rule of law."
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was jailed Thursday when she refused to comply with a federal judge's order to issue marriage licenses.
Earnest added, "what's important ... is that this is the decision that's supposed to be made by a federal judge, and so I would not, from this vantage point, second guess those decisions."
Five of six deputy clerks in a Kentucky county say they'll issue marriage licenses to gay couples despite their boss's defiance, but some are reluctant and emotional about the decision.
Deputy clerk Melissa Thompson told U.S. District Judge David Bunning that she doesn't really want to, but she will comply with the law.
She wept and said: "I'm a preacher's daughter, and this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life."
And an attorney for deputy clerk Kristie Plank says she's reluctant but will issues the licenses. The attorney cites Plank's 11-year-old child and financial and family obligations, saying she can't go to jail.
Their boss, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, is being held in jail because she won't obey court orders and issue licenses, citing her Christian beliefs about gay marriage.
Five of the six deputy clerks in a Kentucky county say they will issue marriage licenses to gay couples, despite their boss's refusal to do so.
The lone holdout among the deputy clerk's is the clerk's son, Nathan. His mother was jailed earlier Thursday when she refused to follow U.S. District Judge David Bunning's order to hand out marriage licenses.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs have proposed releasing Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis out of custody if she agrees to not interfere with marriage licenses for gay couples.
The judge has agreed to the proposal and is now bringing Kim Davis back to the courtroom to see if she will agree.
(The version corrects that plaintiffs made the proposal, not attorneys for Davis)
One of the plaintiffs in the gay marriage case in Kentucky testified that she actually voted for the clerk who has refused to hand out marriage licenses.
April Miller, a professor at Morehead State, said the past two months have been pretty demoralizing for her and her partner. She was asked during a court hearing Thursday whether a license would validate her marriage.
"Yeah, that's what marriage is about - to show other people you are in a long-term relationship," she said. "It is legitimized."
She says when she went to get a license Tuesday, a deputy clerk told her she could go to a different county. Miller says that was kind of saying "we don't want gays or lesbians here. We don't think you are valuable."
A judge jailed Rowan County clerk Kim Davis on Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses.
The judge who jailed a Kentucky clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses says he didn't make the decision lightly.
In court on Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Bunning said he doesn't think Rowan County clerk Kim Davis is combative. She has refused to issues licenses because of her religious beliefs about gay marriage.
But, Bunning said, "Her good faith belief is simply not a viable defense."
Bunning also spoke of his own religious beliefs. But he said that the oath he took, and the oath Davis took, supersedes those beliefs.
Bunning also said that it's not his job or the court's job to write laws or make changes. But he noted that the legislative and executive branches can do so.
A federal judge says he didn't think fining a defiant Kentucky clerk would force her to comply with his order to issue marriage licenses.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis says her supporters are raising funds for her, but she herself hasn't requested any money. Davis was jailed on Thursday.
Before that, she testified for about 20 minutes and said people are calling her office all the time wanting to send money.
She was asked if the county insurance would pay a fine, and she said: "I was told they would drop me like a hot potato."
The defiant Kentucky clerk has told a judge that she can't comply with an order to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because it would violate her conscience.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was jailed Thursday after she refused to comply with U.S. District Judge David Bunning's order.
Davis testified for about 20 minutes and was very emotional. She talked about when she became a Christian.
"You can't be separated from something that's in your heart and in your soul," she told the judge.
After she was jailed, hundreds of people outside the courthouse started chanting and screaming, "Love won! Love won!"
A federal judge is warning deputy clerks in Kentucky that they must issue marriage licenses to gay couples or face fines or jail.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning already jailed Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for refusing to comply with his order. She was led out of the courtroom by U.S. marshals on Thursday.
The judge gave the deputy clerks time to go meet with public defenders and said the hearing will resume at 1:45 p.m.
A federal judge has ordered a defiant Kentucky clerk to jail after she refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning told Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis she would be jailed until she complied with his order to issue the licenses. Davis said "thank you" before she was led out of the courtroom by a U.S. marshal. She was not in handcuffs.
Davis has refused to issue marriages licenses for two months since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. She argues that her Christian faith should exempt her from signing the licenses.
As hundreds of protesters gathered at the courthouse, there was no sign of the Kentucky clerk who was summoned to appear before a federal judge because she refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
It's possible that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis used a gated entrance in the rear to enter the courthouse. She was ordered to appear before U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning at 11 a.m., but by that time, she had not entered through the front, where the crowds had gathered.
Davis faces the possibility of being held in contempt and could face hefty fines or even jail time.
A small plane flew over the courthouse, carrying a banner that said: "Stand Firm Kim." On the courthouse sidewalk, gay marriage supporters shouted "love is not a sin" while at least three preachers with bullhorns called them sinners.
Hundreds of protesters have filled the street in front of the federal courthouse in Ashland as they wait for a hearing to start on the gay marriage case in Kentucky.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has defied federal court orders to hand out marriage licenses, saying her religious beliefs don't let her endorse same-sex marriage. A judge has ordered her to appear Thursday. If she continues to refuse to follow the law, she could be hit with fines or jail time.
The demonstrators outside are waving signs, chanting and singing hymns as they wait for Davis to arrive.
Signs ranged from the violent - turn to Jesus or burn - to simple statements of support. The hearing starts at 11 a.m. EDT.
A county clerk in Kentucky who has repeatedly defied court orders by refusing to issue marriage licenses will appear before a federal judge who could hold her in contempt of court.
Rowan County clerk Kim Davis has been summoned to the hearing at 11 a.m. Thursday before U.S. District Judge David Bunning. He's also ordered all of Davis' deputy clerks to appear. Bunning could hold Davis in contempt, which can carry hefty fines or jail time.
Davis stopped issuing licenses to all couples in June after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Despite rulings against her, she's turned away couples again and again, citing her Christian beliefs and "God's authority."
The couples who originally sued in the case have asked Bunning to punish Davis with fines but not jail time.
(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)