WASHINGTON — A county clerk in Kentucky who was briefly jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples said Friday she and her family have switched to the Republican Party because the Democrats no longer represented them.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, 50, who has said her beliefs as an Apostolic Christian prevent her from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, said they had changed parties last week. She was a long-time Democrat in eastern Kentucky.
“My husband and I had talked about it for quite a while and we came to the conclusion that the Democratic Party left us a long time ago, so why were we hanging on?” she told Reuters in an interview at a hotel in Washington, where she has traveled to be feted at a Family Research Council event later Friday.
Davis also said she did not foresee a problem with the current marriage licenses being issued by her office in Morehead, Kentucky. Critics have charged the altered licenses, which removed her name and title and the name of the county, violate an order issued by U.S. District Judge David Bunning and raise questions about their validity.
“I don’t think there should be much of an issue and the judge didn’t have any problem accepting the licenses that were issued when I was incarcerated, which had been altered, so I don’t see that there should be an issue,” she said.
Davis added, however, that if the new licenses became an issue for Bunning, she was prepared to return to jail.
Her attorneys in a filing with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati late Friday said there was a “reasonable expectation” Davis may be jailed again while her appeals are decided.
Davis, who returned to work Sept. 14, was jailed for five days in September for refusing to comply with Bunning’s order to issue licenses in line with a Supreme Court ruling in June that made same-sex marriage legal across the United States.
The stance has made Davis and the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Kentucky and other states the latest focus in a long-running debate over same-sex marriage in the U.S.
She has won support from some conservative Republicans, who say the issue is about religious freedom, but Friday she called the idea of campaigning for Republicans “kind of far fetched.” Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz were among supporters who attended a rally with Davis after her release.
She called “absurd” the idea she should quit as clerk due to her religious beliefs, and said she was following state law that has not changed since the Supreme Court ruling.
The couples suing Davis have asked Bunning to consider ordering a limited receivership for the clerk’s office and fines to ensure that it issues valid marriage licenses.
Attorneys for Davis have said the changes made to the form were a good-faith effort to follow her religious beliefs and meet the court’s order. In Friday’s appeals court filing, they called arguments that the new forms were flawed groundless.
Bunning ordered Davis jailed for contempt Sept. 3 for refusing to comply with his order to issue marriage licenses. He ordered her released when deputy clerks were issuing licenses.
Davis has asked Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, state lawmakers and Bunning to accommodate her beliefs. She also has appealed Bunning’s orders to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.