A Kentucky clerk at the center of a national controversy was held in contempt of court and sent to jail for refusing to comply with a judge’s order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
But she isn’t the only public official who has defied the law over same-sex marriage.
On Thursday, a federal judge ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to jail because of her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Davis argued that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated her religious beliefs and liberties. However, on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to review a lower court’s ruling that ordered Davis to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
After the justices turned down Davis’s appeal, same-sex couples in Rowan county were expected to receive marriage licenses. But today, Davis again refused to issue them.
At a hearing in federal court today, Judge David Bunning ordered U.S. marshals take Davis to jail because she failed to comply with his order.
>>>For more on this, see Ryan T. Anderson’s new book, “The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom.”
While Davis continues to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, former government officials at both the local and state level have refused to comply with state laws on gay marriage in the past. However, none were jailed.
The Daily Signal reached out to those officials for comment on Davis’s case and whether they thought she should be in jail.
California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom
In 2004, then-San Francisco Mayor Newsom directed city clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. At that time, gay marriage was prohibited in California.
Today, Rhys Williams, spokesman for the lieutenant governor, told The Daily Signal Newsom’s actions are “incomparable” to Davis’s.
“First, he issued licenses challenging existing state law. It wasn’t to challenge a court order, and certainly not a Supreme Court order,” Williams said. “What’s happening is not a challenge of the law. It’s a Supreme Court order. It’s different. It’s incomparable.
“We challenge constitutionality of laws on the books all the time,” he continued. “This issue was settled by the judicial process. That’s different than what happened in 2004.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown
During his time as state attorney general, Brown decided not to respond to legal challenges of Proposition 8, which stated that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid.” One of Brown’s responsibilities as attorney general was the defend California and its laws in court.
Brown’s office did not return The Daily Signal’s request for comment regarding Davis’s case.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway
Following Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage, Conway said he would not appeal a ruling to recognize same-sex marriages. In a statement addressing his decision, Conway said defending Kentucky’s ban by appealing the case would “be defending discrimination.”
In a statement to The Daily Signal regarding Davis’s case today, Conway defended Bunning’s ruling ordering the Rowan County Clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“I understand that passions are high on both sides of the issue, but we are a nation of laws, and no one can defy an order from a federal judge,” Conway said.
Montgomery County (Pa.) Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes
Two years ago, Hanes issued the first marriage license to a same-sex couple despite Pennsylvania’s ban on gay marriage.
Hanes was not available when The Daily Signal contacted his office and did not return requests for comment.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane
Kane declined to defend the state of Pennsylvania when she was listed as a defendant in a 2013 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union regarding the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
“I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act] where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional,” she said in a statement at the time, according to the Washington Post.
Kane’s office did not immediately return The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum
In 2014, Rosenblum said in a filing that challenged Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage that she wouldn’t defend the state’s ban.
“State defendants will not defend the Oregon ban on same-sex marriage in this litigation. Rather, they will take the position in their summer judgement briefing that the ban cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review,” she said in the filings.
Rosenblum’s office did not return The Daily Signal’s request for comment regarding Davis’ case.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris
Following legal challenges to California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited marriage between same-sex couples, Harris decided not to defend the state law.
“I declined to defend Proposition 8 because it violates the Constitution. The Supreme Court has described marriage as a fundamental right 14 times since 1888,” Harris said in a 2013 statement. “The time has come for this right to be afforded to every citizen.”
Harris’s office did not immediately return The Daily Signal’s request for comment on Davis’s case.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
Instead of defending state law, Madigan requested the attorney general’s office be allowed to join in two lawsuits challenging Illinois’s gay marriage ban in 2012.
In court filings, Madigan said her office “respectfully respects the right to intervene in this case to present the court with arguments that explain why the challenged statutory provisions do not satisfy the guarantee of equality under the Illinois Constitution.”
The Daily Signal was not able to reach Madigan for comment on Davis’s case.
Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto
In 2014, Masto argued that due to new court rulings, the “legal landscape” regarding same-sex marriage has “changed,” and that the state of Nevada could no longer defend a ban.
“After thoughtful review and analysis, the State has determined that its arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable,” Masto, who is currently running for the Senate, said in a statement.
Masto’s Senate campaign did not return The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring
After voters elected Herring attorney general in 2013, Herring told NPR he would no longer defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“As attorney general, I cannot and will not defend laws that violate Virginians’ rights,” Herring said. “The commonwealth will be siding with the plaintiffs in this case and with every other Virginia couple whose right to marry is being denied.”
The Daily Signal could not reach Herring’s office for comment on Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.