Kim Davis may have interfered with order on same-sex marriage: lawyer

A Kentucky county clerk defied a U.S. federal judge's order yet again by altering marriage licence forms to remove her name, according to an attorney that represents one of the clerk's employees.

Kentucky county clerk allegedly made changes to forms that may have altered their validity

Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis 'confiscated all the original forms' and replaced them with marriage licence forms that delete her name, a deputy clerk's lawyer says. (Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press)

A Kentucky county clerk defied a U.S. federal judge's order yet again by altering marriage licence forms to remove her name, according to an attorney that represents one of the clerk's employees.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis spent five days in jail for refusing to obey a federal judge's ruling that she issue marriage licences to same-sex couples. Davis, an Apostolic Christian, said she believes same-sex marriage is a sin and cited "God's authority" in refusing to issue the licences.

While Davis was in jail, deputy clerk Brian Mason issued the licences to same-sex couples. U.S. District Judge David Bunning then released Davis from jail, but ordered her not to interfere with Mason or any other employee who issued the licences, or else she risks returning to jail. Bunning appointed attorneys for each of Davis' employees and asked them to file status reports with the court every two weeks.

On Friday, Mason's attorney told the judge that when Davis returned to work Monday, she "confiscated all the original forms" and replaced them with forms that delete her name, the name of the county and all references to the deputy clerks. The new form has Mason's name and a place for him to write his initials but not his signature.

"It also appears to this counsel those changes were made in some attempt to circumvent the court's orders and may have raised to the level of interference against the court's orders," attorney Richard Hughes wrote. "Mr. Mason is concerned because he is in a difficult position that he continues to issue the licences per the court's order ... which had some remote questionable validity, but now with these changes, may in fact have some substantial questions about validity."

State law requires marriage licences to be issued under the authority of the county clerk. Someone else, a minister or other officiant, then performs the ceremony and signs the licence. The clerk then files the licence with county records.

Davis has said that any licence issued — with or without her name — is not valid unless she authorizes it. However, when she was released from jail, she changed the marriage licence forms to say they were being issued under the authority of the federal court. Davis's attorney said this new form, if OK with the judge, would solve the problem because gay couples would have a marriage licence and Davis would have a clear conscience.

But lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the same-sex couples that sued Davis, said they are concerned the new forms might not meet the requirements of Kentucky state law. Hughes echoed those concerns in Friday's court filing.

"Mr. Mason's concern is he does not want to be the party that is issuing invalid marriage licences and he is trying to follow the court's mandate as well as his superior ordering him to issue only these changed forms," Hughes said.

Mason is the only employee in Davis's office who has said he does not object to issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples. Hughes said he agreed with his fellow deputy clerks to issue the licences to "ease the stress of the situation." But Hughes noted the other clerks would issue the licences if Mason were absent.

Mason has calmly and cheerfully issued marriage licences in Rowan County, often amid a scrum of TV cameras and recorders documenting his every move. He has declined interview requests and it is not clear what relationship he has with Davis. During her federal testimony, Davis described Mason as a "very loyal, very dedicated, very good employee."