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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Rowan County clerk released from jail

On Tuesday morning, Rowan County, Kent. clerk Kim Davis was released from jail after she appealed the U.S. District Court’s decision to hold her in contempt. The appeal followed her Thursday arrest after Judge David Bunning placed her in custody for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple.

Bunning offered Davis the option to simply not interfere with her five county deputies, who all swore under oath they would begin issuing licenses as early as Friday. When Davis still refused to comply with this offer, she was arrested for contempt.

“She said, as a matter of conscience based on her firmly held religious beliefs, she cannot,” said Meg Penrose, A&M constitutional law professor.

Penrose said the plaintiff originally sought a monetary fine against Davis, but the district judge thought it would not fully communicate the severity of following the law of the land.

“The interesting thing in this case — the plaintiff simply sought a monetary fine, but [the judge] realized that probably wasn’t going to effectuate his ruling and his ruling is the county clerk must comply with the Supreme Court’s decision because under the supremacy clause, that’s the law of the land,” Penrose said. “And he believed a fine would be insufficient to ensure that the ruling to effect in Kentucky.”

Will Rapisand, a general officer for LGBTQ Aggies and chemical engineering senior, said Davis’ case can be viewed from several perspectives.

“When it comes from the law standpoint, it’s very nice to see that her appeals didn’t end up working out for her,” Rapisand said. “Now the Supreme Court has made the ruling and that is what is law, and they’re upholding that law and not making exceptions for it. So from the government standpoint, it shows support. And then from an individual’s standpoint, it just shows resistance.”

Penrose said to remove Davis from the position would be a complicated, complex process because a county clerk is an elected official. 

“She would have to be impeached by the legislature or not re-elected into her position, and the legislature doesn’t go back into session I think until January, and the state governor has indicated he does not want to set up a special session because it would be really costly to the taxpayers of Kentucky,” Penrose said.

Rapisand said moving forward, issuing same sex marriage licenses to couples should be a factor that is taken into account when someone wants to become a county clerk.

Penrose said this is not an exclusive case. There are several people around the country who have resisted giving civil marriage licenses to same sex couples.

“This is not the only state, or the first time this has happened. These religious liberty issues actually preceded the court’s decision,” Penrose said. “I think [Thursday’s] proceedings may change the stance of some people that they realize that if the judges are going to start enforcing the law and requiring individuals who have taken an oath to apply the law without discriminating, and that was the key for this judge.”

Penrose said the intersection of two constitutional rights contribute to the complexity surrounding the issue — the most recent ruling from the Supreme Court’s July decision that same sex marriage is legal, and the First Amendment, or freedom of religion and expression. 

“There are religious liberty issues at play, undoubtedly, but asking someone to issue a civil marriage license was found by this federal district judge not to be protected by the First Amendment,” Penrose said. “So when you say, ‘Why?’ it’s because this particular judge has found that merely issuing the license doesn’t invoke her First Amendment protection.”

On campus, student opinions about the Davis case vary.

Rohan Hari, finance junior, said he believes Davis was wrong to refuse same sex couples marriage licenses under the law, but her punishment was too severe.

“I think it’s a little bit extreme for her to be thrown in jail, although I do believe she should uphold her duty as a government worker to [issue marriage licenses] to same sex individuals, as it is a right as a citizen,” Hari said. 

Braden McCook, engineering freshman, said he disagrees with same sex marriage as a Christian, but that all American citizens still have the right to marry under the law.

“First of all, I’m a Christian so I believe opposite sex marriage should be the right way, but we live in America and it’s a free country so I think if people of the same sex want to get married, they should be allowed to,” McCook said. “I don’t agree with it and I wouldn’t practice it or anything but if they want to then they should be allowed to.”

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