Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who made national news in 2015 when she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, reappeared in the news recently when she announced that she will seek re-election next year.
Davis (R) announced earlier this month that she will seek a second term as Rowan County clerk, according to her attorney, Mat Staver, founder of the Religious Right legal group Liberty Counsel. It will be the first time that Davis will face the voters since she first refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples, gay or straight, in a bid to prevent same-sex couples from marrying.
Davis cited her religious beliefs in opposition to marriage equality as a justification for denying couples a wedding license. Her refusal and her resulting brief stint in jail for failing to fulfill her official duties prompted some evangelicals to view her as a martyr. She rallied with then Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and was feted at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit that year.
This rise in her national stature led some to speculate she might seek higher political office, but Staver said that’s not the case, remarking, “She’s not interested in any other office.”
Davis may already have a challenger: A gay man whose wedding license she refused to issue told a Kentucky public radio station that he’s considering running against her.
“If Kim Davis was re-elected in that position without an appropriate fight, I’d probably regret it for the rest of my life,” said David Ermold, who added that he and his husband, David Moore, are strategizing how best to mount a campaign against her.
Several couples, including Ermold and Moore, filed a lawsuit against her; Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, arguing that Davis’ actions were unconstitutional.
Davis’ antics have cost Kentucky taxpayers. A federal judge on Oct. 23 re-affirmed his earlier order that Kentucky and its taxpayers must cover nearly $225,000 in legal fees and court costs owed to those couples. U.S. District Judge David Bunning said that because Davis was acting in her official capacity and the state primarily regulates marriage licenses, the state must cover the fees, not Davis personally or Rowan County.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R), a supporter of Davis, had asked Bunning to reconsider his order. It’s unknown whether Bevin will appeal to a higher court; Davis’ attorney had also previously vowed to appeal Bunning’s first order, even though it left Davis off the hook for the legal fees.
Meanwhile, Davis has been expanding her reach. In October, she joined Liberty Counsel representatives on a trip to Romania, where some citizens have petitioned for a nationwide referendum to define marriage as only between one man and one woman in the nation’s constitution.
The New York Times reported that few Romanians seemed to know who Davis is, but LGBTQ rights groups denounced her meddling in that country.
“It is extremely worrying that a person who broke the law in the United States is being brought to Romania and presented as some sort of hero of Christianity,” said Vlad Viski, the president of the LGBTQ advocacy group MozaiQ.
Controversy seems to follow Davis wherever she goes. That may not or may not bother the residents of Rowan County. We’ll know for sure next year.