The revolt of the (few) Kentucky county clerks

Christian hero Kim Davis, the Kentucky country clerk who, despite losing her case in court, continues to refuse to issue all marriage licenses so that she does not have to issue them to same-sex couples (because Jesus would not approve) is taking her fight to the streets. A rally was held in front of the state capitol that supposedly drew thousands of people to hear her speak for about a minute. It sounded more like a revival meeting than a political rally designed to kick off a mass revolution.

I have seen comments saying that these clerks should be fired for not doing their jobs. The catch is that the county clerk in Kentucky is an elected official and this removal would require impeachment.

The question will then become what Davis chooses to do.

She has said she will not resign and pledged to never issue a license to same-sex couples. She can only be removed from office if the state Legislature impeaches her, which is unlikely.

If she continues to ignore court orders, the couples’ attorneys are likely to ask Bunning to hold her in contempt of court, which triggers a new round of hearings, evidence and testimony that could drag on for some time.

The law offers the judge wide discretion on how to force her hand: he can sanction her with fines, or order that she be jailed.

“She’s put herself in a position where she is certainly in grave danger of being personally liable for both the costs that the plaintiffs are incurring and fines and any penalties,” [University of Louisville constitutional law professor Sam] Marcosson said.

But it remains unclear if she will be personally responsible for any fines, or if county taxpayers will be left with the bill. Marcosson said that question likely will have to be litigated.

Meanwhile, Davis was joined at the rally by the only two other county clerks (Kay Schwartz and Casey Davis) who are also refusing to issue licenses, out of the 120 clerks in all. Casey Davis seems to want to up the ante on Christian martyrdom, saying that what the Supreme Court did was unconstitutional and that he is willing to die to prevent same-sex marriage. I am not sure how he thinks this is likely to go down. Maybe like Al Pacino in Scarface?


  1. addicted44 says

    It’s not directly relevant, but…

    Why the F is county CLERK an elected position? What sort of numbskullery is that?

  2. flex says

    As this question has arisen more than once in this discussion, I’ll take a stab at it.

    Why the F is county CLERK an elected position?

    In my state, Michigan, and many other states with the same model for local governments, there are three administrative officials which are elected. The supervisor/mayor, the treasurer, and the clerk.

    These officials are charged with oversight and management of the three government functions which are required by law to be performed by representatives of the community they live in. The functions are managing the overall operation of the local municipality, by the supervisor/mayor (or some other term for the officeholder). The next function is collection of the taxes owed by the citizens, which is performed by the treasurer. The third function is to run the elections, which is performed by the clerk. The municipal board may hire other other people to perform these duties (it is not uncommon for a CPA comptroller to be hired to support the treasurer for example), but the responsibility to ensure they are done properly, in full accordance with the law, is the responsibility of these officials.

    The clerk is responsible for managing the voter rolls, getting the volunteers to run the precincts during elections, validating the election results, over-seeing voter challenges, etc. The clerk also generally handles other municipal paperwork, all the records of the municipality are recorded and stored by the clerk. Which is why functions like managing ordinances, tracking municipal contracts, granting marriage licenses, and other paperwork are the responsibility of the clerk’s office.

    The county clerk is not simply a person in an office doing filing work, but a very responsible position.

    Unless I’m reading this wrong, impeachment isn’t the only option in this case. According to a quick glance at the Kentucky statute regarding recall elections, if 10% of the citizens of a municipality sign a petition within 45 days of it being registered with the county clerk, a recall election could be held to remove any elected official from office.

    However, the citizens of the municipality must want to recall their elected representatives for that to happen.

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