In a five-page decision, U.S. District Judge David Bunning, the George W. Bush-appointed judge who was responsible for finding Davis in contempt of court, denied on Wednesday her request to keep the injunction against her limited only to the couples who sued her and not other seeking marriage licenses in her Kentucky office.
“Although Plaintiffs have obtained their marriage licenses, other eligible couples have and will most certainly continue to seek licenses in Rowan County going forward,” Bunning writes. “If the Court granted Davis’ Motion to Stay at this juncture, it would essentially allow her to reinstate her ‘no marriage licenses’ policy during the pendency of the appeal and likely violate the constitutional rights of eligible couples.”
Davis, an Apostolic Christian with religious objections to same-sex marriage, filed the request after Bunning issued on Sept. 3 a clarification on his preliminary injunction ordering her to stop enforcement of the “no licenses” policy in her office. Davis maintained the clarifying the ruling applies to all couples more or less was an attempt to skirt legal analysis on plaintiffs’ pending request to expand the case into a class-action lawsuit to ensure it applies to all couples.
“Had the Court declined to clarify that its ruling applied to all eligible couples seeking a marriage license in Rowan County, it would have effectively granted Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief and left other eligible couples at the mercy of Davis’ ‘no marriage licenses’ policy, which the Court found to be in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, ” Bunning writes. “Such an approach would not only create piecemeal litigation, it would be inconsistent with basic principles of justice and fairness. Thus, when the need arose, the Court clarified that its ruling applied with equal force to all marriage license applicants in Rowan County, regardless of their involvement in this litigation.”
Charla Bansley, a spokesperson for social conservative Liberty Counsel, said Davis would appeal to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The issue was one of several remaining questions pending before Bunning. After a lawyer for Deputy County Clerk Brian Mason raised questions about whether Davis continues to defy courts by altering marriage forms now being issued to couples in her office, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief with the court echoing that concern and calling for change the licenses to their original form. Bunning has yet to rule on that question.