Kim Davis is seen in this Carter County Detention Center booking photo taken, Sept. 3, 2015.
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For Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk in jail for refusing a judge’s order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she herself holds a jailhouse key.
Davis, who was taken into custody Thursday, could be released as soon as she complies with U.S. District Judge David Bunning’s order to resume issuing licenses in Rowan County.
“With civil contempt, you hold the jailhouse key,” Howard Wasserman, law professor at Florida International University College of Law, told ABC News. “As soon as you comply, you are let out of jail.”
Wasserman says he believes Bunning chose jail for Davis because “the less severe sanction of monetary fines would not have been sufficient to get her to comply. So the judge concluded that this was the only sanction he had left.”

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Davis’ options appear to be to comply, resign or stay in jail, Wasserman said, adding that it’s unclear what will happen next. But, Wasserman noted that it seems as though Davis is “benefiting in an odd way from being in jail.”
“I wouldn’t say she wants to be there … [but] for her cause, this is actually an advantageous thing,” Wasserman said. “Because she has been a martyr to this cause. She has presidential candidates talking about [her as a] victim in a war against Christianity … and how she’s a victim of being the first person ever put in jail for adhering to their conscience, which is not true.
“She’s the first one ever thrown in jail for believing that there’s a traditional view of marriage, and to a portion of the population that agrees with that, she’s become something of a hero,” he said.
Judge Bunning also has options.
Five of Davis’ deputies said under oath they would comply with the court’s order to issue the licenses. A sixth clerk, Kim Davis’ son, remains a holdout but has not been jailed.
If the other clerks in Rowan County continue to comply with issuing marriage licenses like they have today, Bunning might “lift the contempt citation, which would let [Davis] out of jail,” Wasserman said.
But, Wasserman said, Bunning is likely …Read More