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County Clerk ruling sets precedent for employees and federal law

| Sep 9, 2015 | Employment Disputes |

 

Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the right to marry extends not only to heterosexual couples, but to same sex couples as well. Although prior to the ruling many states had already legalized gay marriage, this opened the door for gay couples throughout America to get legally married. But, this ruling did not sit well with some people, including a County Clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis.

In a story that has made national news headlines, Davis has stated that gay marriage is against her religious beliefs. Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses in Rowan County, Kentucky, following the ruling. She holds an elected position in the county, and as a result could not be fired for failing to do her job. The issue ultimately led to another Supreme Court ruling that she must adhere to the law of the land. She still refused.

Davis subsequently was held in contempt of court, ruled by U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who stated, “The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order.” Attorneys for Davis and those in agreement with her stance have suggested alternatives and allowances for her to work around the law and her beliefs, but Judge Bunning countered, saying, “If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.” Davis has been steadfast in her beliefs, and was subsequently sentenced to stay at the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Kentucky, due to her inactions.

With laws ever-evolving in the United States, new employment issues such as this case will inevitably turn up. Although the protection of a person’s religious beliefs will continually be honored in the U.S., we have learned that if the employment dispute forces an employee to not adhere to the law, the employee may be held in contempt, and may see jail time.

Source: FindLaw.com, “Kentucky Court Clerk Jailed Over Same-Sex Marriage Licenses,” Christopher Coble, Sept. 4, 2015