Judge orders Kentucky clerk’s release from prison, tells her not to interfere

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Kim Davis (Photo: WTVQ / MGN)

(CNN) — U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning in Kentucky has ordered that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis be released from jail. He ordered her not to interfere with clerks in her office issuing marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.

Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs. Last week, Bunning sent Davis to jail saying she would remain behind bars until he complied.

The legal battle has now entered the political arena.  GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee scheduled a visit with Davis today.  Afterward, he’ll lead an “#ImWithKim Liberty Rally” outside the Carter County Detention Center.

For about 1,000 school kids in the area, it means a day off. Classes at five schools have been called off for the day to cut down traffic congestion.

Case appealed

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to jail after finding her in contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in Rowan County following June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Davis says issuing a license with her name on it would violate her Christian convictions against same-sex marriage.

Davis’ legal team has filed several appeals to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. It is asking that the state take her name off the licenses — a move that her lawyers say would accommodate Davis while allowing same-sex couples to receive licenses.

“If (Davis’ deputies) can issue licenses under someone else’s authority … Kim Davis would not stand in the way of that,” one of her attorneys, Roger Gannam, told CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday.

Davis’ legal team on Monday asked the appeals court for an injunction that would prompt Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to remove her name from the licenses — something Davis’ lawyers say Beshear has the power and obligation to do through an executive order.

Davis’ lawyers say removing her name would be a reasonable accommodation, and that such an accommodation is required under Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The 2013 law prohibits the state government from substantially burdening a person’s freedom of religion, unless the government both proves that it has a compelling interest in doing so and has used the least restrictive means to do it.

Davis should not have to resign or be jailed, Gannam said, because “accommodation of religious conscience is the law in Kentucky, including for elected officials.”

“It’s the duty of the Kentucky government to accommodate that, and they very easily could do so,” Gannam said. “Gov. Beshear is the one who should do his job or resign.”

Governor: No special session

Beshear’s office said Monday that he wouldn’t respond to news of the appeals, saying the case was a “matter between her and the courts.”

The state legislature also could pass a law removing clerks’ names from the licenses, but it won’t be in session until January.

Beshear said the legislature can do as it wishes, but he won’t call lawmakers for a special session to deal with the issue, adding that to do so would cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money.”