Rowan County clerk Kim Davis (second left) is shown in this courtroom sketch during her contempt of court hearing for her refusal to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples, at the United States District Court on Thursday. (Marlene Steele/Reuters)Judge David L. Bunning stared across the courtroom at Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for the second time in as many months. In the drawn-out legal saga surrounding her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay or straight couples, this was the end of the road.
Bunning would charge Davis with contempt and sentence her to jail time, rather than fines that she could potentially pay without complying with the court’s order. Her deputy clerks would also have 30 minutes to decide whether they would comply or face jail time themselves.
After hearing both sides inside a federal courtroom in Ashland, Ky., the 49-year-old judge made his decision: The devout Catholic and son of former U.S. Senator and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning became the first U.S. judge to issue a jail sentence to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling that made gay marriage legal across the country.
[Kentucky clerk ordered to jail for refusing to issue gay marriage license]
Bunning’s decision Thursday came at a pivotal juncture in the gay-marriage debate that has divided the country along starkly partisan lines. But notably, it has been the decisions of a Republican judge appointed by a Republican president, George W. Bush, in a conservative state that have halted the latest effort to use religious freedom objections to the ruling.
“Personal opinions, including my own, are not relevant to today,” Bunning, a federal district judge, told Davis and the courtroom Thursday. “The idea of natural law superseding this court’s authority would be a dangerous precedent indeed.”
[The defiant Kim Davis, the Ky. clerk who refuses to issue gay marriage licenses]
It is the kind of historic moment that most judges will never see, and it was unfolding inside the courtroom of a man who some people believed, 13 years ago, shouldn’t have been on the bench in the first place.
One such person was Ohio attorney David Weiner, who in 2001, was tasked with helping the American Bar Association make a recommendation to the U.S. Senate about whether Bunning was fit to be a federal judge.
Read More