At a distance, it's understandable why U.S. District Judge David Bunning agreed today to release Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from jail. Bunning locked Davis up last week after she brazenly defied a court order, but in the days since, the clerk's office has begun honoring the law and issuing marriage licenses to all couples, not just those Davis finds morally acceptable.
[Davis'] attorney said that Davis would continue to abide by her conscience, which cannot condone same-sex nuptials, and that all licenses issued since her incarceration were not valid. The defiant stand seems likely to land Davis right back in jail....
In this morning's court order, Judge Bunning, a George W. Bush appointee and the son of a former far-right senator, said he is "satisfied that the Rowan County Clerk’s Office is fulfilling its obligation to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples," consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality. As a result, Bunning lifted the contempt sanction against Davis and she was free to go.
So, problem solved, right? Wrong.
Bunning's order specifically said that Davis, her religious beliefs notwithstanding, “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”
But as the MSNBC report added
, Davis's lawyer, Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver, suggested she's likely to defy this order, too.
“She cannot allow a license authorizing same-sex marriage to go under her authority or name,” Staver said in an interview with NBC News’ Gabe Gutierrez, ahead of Davis’ release. “That’s been her position from the beginning and that will be her position, I assume, on any subsequent occasion. She’s asking for a simple fix, a simple accommodation.” “We’re back to square one,” he added. “She’s been released. But there has been no resolution.”
In this case, the "simple accommodation" will not include Davis honoring the law, or following court orders, or fulfilling her oath of office, or even finding a job where her responsibilities aren't in conflict with her religious principles. When Staver says "simple accommodation," he effectively means "the legal authority to block marriages Davis doesn't like."*
If you read MaddowBlog over the weekend, you know that Staver leads
a right-wing legal group created by the late Jerry Falwell. Staver has argued, more than once, that Kim Davis is comparable to a Jewish person living under Nazi rule. He wasn't kidding.
As for the politics of all of this, while we wait for Davis to end up in jail again, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) -- two second-tier Republican presidential candidates -- went to almost comedic lengths to exploit the Kentucky controversy to advance their own personal ambitions.
* Update: One other possible accommodation that's come up is removing Davis' name from licenses issued by this clerk's office. That said, if Davis interferes with her colleagues fulfilling their official duties, this may prove insufficient.