An effort is being made to end the martyrdom of Kim Davis:
A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the release of the Kentucky clerk who was jailed for contempt last week after she repeatedly defied his order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk, “shall be released from the custody of the U.S. Marshal forthwith,” U.S. District Judge David Bunning of the Eastern District of Kentucky stated in an order.
Judge Bunning warned Ms. Davis not to “interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.
It's not clear whether it will work, however:
... her lawyer says she'll continue blocking licenses when she returns to work.
That sets up another legal confrontation....
Davis is a Democrat -- presumably she's a descendant of Dixiecrats who retained the party affiliation for some reason or other -- but her case has been embraced almost exclusively by Republicans, including presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, both of whom have been announced plans to meet with Davis in recent days. The judge who jailed Davis and has now freed her is a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench and the son of Jim Bunning, a former Republican U.S. senator from Kentucky.
I don't know what Bunning was thinking when he jailed her -- did he do so on principle? did he hope she'd resign and make the whole case go away? -- but jailing her just made her more of a martyr and a household name, so freeing her is the best hope Establishment Republicans have of putting the story to rest before the public begins to see the GOP as the party of Kim Davis in the way that it seems to be becoming the party of unabashed immigrant hate as a result of the Donald Trump campaign.
Is there evidence that the GOP Establishment wants the story quashed? Well, I see Washington Post op-ed writer and former George W. Bush speechwriter telling us that Davis is no Rosa Parks. I see members of a Fox News panel mocking Davis and her lawyer:
A panel of legal experts on Fox News came to the conclusion on Monday that Kim Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver, was “ridiculously stupid” for asserting that the Supreme Court did not have constitutional authority to strike down same-sex marriage bans.
On Monday’s edition of Happening Now, trial attorney Chip Merlin pointed out that anyone who violates a judge’s order should “expect to be thrown in jail.”
“She can still practice her faith,” Fox News host Gregg Jarrett noted. “Just not on the job in a way that interferes with the legal rights of the citizens she serves. And in fact, the U.S. Supreme Court said so nine years ago.”
“She’s a hypocrite,” criminal defense attorney Sharon Liko agreed. “She’s applying for the job of a martyr. She wants to practice her faith by not issuing marriage licenses. Yet, she will not agree to let the deputy county clerks issue marriage licenses even if it’s okay with their faith.”
I see GOP-friendly pollster Rasmussen reporting that "Voters Show Little Sympathy for Jailed Clerk in Gay Marriage Spat." Please note how the question was asked -- it seems as if it was phrased to elicit an anti-Davis response:
... just 26% of Likely U.S. Voters think an elected official should be able to a ignore a federal court ruling that he or she disagrees with for religious reasons. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 66% think the official should carry out the law as the federal court has interpreted it.
The exact wording of the question doesn't mention Davis's name, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, or the specific Supreme Court ruling -- all of which might have elicited sympathy from conservative poll respondents. The exact wording of the question was
Should an elected local official be able to ignore a federal court ruling that he or she disagrees with for religious reasons, or should that official carry out the law as the federal court has interpreted it?
Yes, I think there's an effort to tamp this down. But Davis and her backers may not cooperate -- in which case, pass the popcorn.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog