The Kentucky clerk who was jailed over her refusal to issue marriage licenses said Monday she would not authorize marriage licenses for same-sex couples but would not block her deputies from doing so in her place.
Shortly before she was to return to work at the Rowan County Courthouse, Kim Davis said she did not consider the marriage licenses being issued by her office to be valid without her authorization.
Nevertheless, she said, if any of her deputy clerks “feels they must issue an unauthorized license to avoid being thrown into jail, I understand their tough choice and I will take no action against them.”
“I’m here before you this morning with a seemingly impossible choice that I do not wish on any of my fellow Americans,” Davis said through tears, minutes before her office was scheduled to open at 8 a.m. “My conscience or my freedom. My conscience or my ability to serve the people that I love. Obey God or a directive that forces me to disobey God, even when there are reasonable accommodations available.”
The fine line that Davis is walking ensures that her situation will remain in the spotlight as the most visible example of defiance against the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
A federal judge found Davis in contempt for refusing to follow a court order to begin issuing marriage licenses on Sept. 1 to gay couples. Davis spent six days in jail but was released under the condition that she not interfere with her deputy clerks issuing the licenses.
Questions remained Monday morning about whether Davis is, in fact, following the condition. She said the marriage certificates issued will not bear her name or title, but rather will say that they are being issued pursuant to a federal court order.
As a result, Davis said, she has “grave doubts that licenses issued under these conditions are even valid.”
Davis has told her deputy clerks that they were welcome to take a vacation day Monday, Davis’s husband, Joe Davis, said. However, at least one deputy clerk appeared to be on hand to issue marriage licenses.