US federal judge David Bunning on Tuesday ordered the release of Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, on the condition that she does not interfere with the efforts conducted by her deputies to issue same-sex marriage licenses, adding that her attorneys stated that marriage licenses issued in Davis’ absence are deemed “not valid.”
Davis had been imprisoned for six days by judge Bunning, who remanded Davis to US marshals during a high-profile hearing last week because she refused an offer from the judge to remain free after her deputies agreed to comply with his order and issue marriage licenses.
“If Defendant Davis should interfere in any way with their issuance, that will be considered a violation of this Order and appropriate sanctions will be considered,” Bunning wrote in the two-page order.
The jailed clerk was released from the Carter County detention center, accompanied by her husband, Joe Davis; her attorney; and a Republican presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee, who was in town to attend a rally in support of Davis.
Huckabee said while standing next to Davis outside the detention center, that she showed more courage than “any politician” he knows.
“If somebody needs to go to jail, I’m willing to go in her place, and I mean that,” Huckabee said. “I’m tired of watching people being harassed because they believe something of their faith.”
Matt Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based Christian religious advocacy organisation that is backing Davis in the legal fight, told reporters that Davis had “no idea this was coming.”
Staver added that the licenses issued by Davis’ deputies over the weekend were provided “without her authority,” which accentuated a significant dispute in recent days over Bunning’s order. “They are not valid.”
Judge Bunning ordered the court-appointed attorneys for the five deputy clerks who have agreed to issue marriage licenses, to file a status report every 14 days “on their clients’ respective compliance” with the judge’s order “requiring them to issue marriage licenses to all eligible couples.”
Earlier on Tuesday, attorneys for the plaintiffs who filed a suit against Davis because they were wrongfuly rejected marriage licenses by Davis’s office - even though the US supreme court issued a decision on June 26 to legalise same sex-marriage - filed a status report with the federal which showed that their clients had successfully obtained a marriage license.
Bunning wrote that “the Court is therefore satisfied that the Rowan County Clerk’s Office is fulfilling its obligation to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples, consistent with the US supreme court’s holding.”
Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, a Kentucky LGBT civil rights group, said it’s “great” that Davis has been released and that he agrees with Bunning that her deputies have “appropriately fulfilled his requirements, which is to issue marriage licenses.”
“I think if she actively obstructs the practice in which they’re already engaging, it [would show] a deep contempt for not just the federal courts ... but also for the Constitution of the United States and the highest court in our land, the supreme court,” Hartman told the Guardian.
“I expect marriage licenses will continue to come out of Rowan County to all eligible couples, and Kim Davis will be relegated but a footnote in the fight for full LGBT equality and civil rights.”
The thrice-divorced Davis was born in Breathitt County, the heart of Appalachia, about 60 miles (100 km) south of Morehead. She has been married four times, twice to the same man, her current husband Joe Davis. Of her four children, twins were born out of wedlock in 1994.
Her faith in Apostolic Christianity helped her escape what her lawyer described as a life in the "devil's playground" and led her to face jail in opposition to the Supreme Court ruling upholding same-sex marriage.
Davis added that issuing a marriage license to a gay couple would violate her conscience.
Casey Davis of Casey County and Kay Schwartz of Whitley County are from the three clerks who are still refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses along with Davis.
Casey Davis, who is not related to Kim Davis, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that Kim Davis’ release is the right thing because “It’s been a total injustice.”