LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — The Kentucky clerk who found herself at the center of a heated national debate when she refused to license same-sex marriages described herself in an email as a “soldier for Christ.”
Davis’ emails, obtained by the Associated Press under the Kentucky open records law, offer some insight into her state of mind in the weeks leading up to her five-day stint in jail for defying a federal court order to issue the licenses.
“The battle has just begun,” Davis wrote in the email to a supporter in July, hours after four couples filed a federal lawsuit against her. It was the start of a monthslong legal fight against licensing same-sex marriages.
“It has truly been a firestorm here and the days are pretty much a blur, but I am confident that God is in control of all of this!!” she wrote to the supporter on July 2, the day the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against her on behalf of the couples. “I desire your prayers, I will need strength that only God can supply and I need a backbone like a saw log!!”
Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses when a Supreme Court ruling in June effectively legalized gay marriage.
A man wrote to ask where to get a marriage license and she told him to go to a neighboring county. She turned away a series of couples, both gay and straight, and a federal judge held her in contempt and sent her to jail in September, sparking a fiery debate about religious freedom in public service.
Protesters crowded the courthouse lawn and news media from across the country descended on rural Rowan County. She complained to a supporter that the demonstrators stood outside her office window chanting into bullhorns.
“Will your lawyers and several decent people be around you to protect you from the wicked threatening homosexual mob and their supporters?” a man from Somerset named Willie Ramsey wrote to ask.
“They are going to try and make a whipping post out of me!!” she wrote in her response. “I know it, but God is still alive and on the throne!!! He IS in control and knows exactly where I am!!”
She and Ramsey corresponded in late August about a looming deadline: United States District Judge David Bunning ordered her to issue the licenses, though delayed his ruling until Aug. 31 as she appealed. Both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court declined to intervene on her behalf.
“September 1 will be the day to prepare for, if the Lord doesn’t return before then,” Davis wrote him. “I have weighed the cost, and will stay the course.”
Ramsey said he’d be willing to block the courthouse door if the law came for her that day.
“I’m sure it will be a mad house!!” she told him, adding that “God will still be in control!!”
While Davis was in jail, a deputy clerk began issuing licenses, altered to remove Davis’ name. Bunning released her on Sept. 8, with instructions not to interfere. But Davis furthered altered the licenses to replace her title with a declaration that the licenses were being issued under a federal court order. The ACLU has questioned the validity of the documents, and the legal battle wears on.
A man wrote her a week after her release, inquiring if the office would issue a marriage license to him and his wife.
She responded in all capital letters: “WE ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS.”