Kim Davis may have invalidated marriage license forms, deputy clerk says

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Clerk Kim Davis speaks to a crowd gathered outside the county's correctional facility on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2015, following her release on a contempt charge.

ROWAN COUNTY, Ky. — A deputy for Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk of court who went to jail for being in contempt of court, is worried he’s been issuing invalid marriage licenses, according to papers filed in federal court.

When Davis returned to work last Monday, she reiterated her opposition to gay marriage but said she wouldn’t prevent her deputies from issuing licenses to such couples — as long as those documents didn’t carry her name or title.

Davis may have gone further than that, the lawyer for deputy Rowan County court clerk Brian Mason said in an update report Friday to a federal judge.

Davis replaced the old marriage license forms with forms that don’t carry her name, the name of the county or any reference to a clerk or deputy clerk, said Mason’s lawyer, Richard Hughes.

The new forms also require Mason to list his initials, instead of a signature, with a notarization beside the initials, Hughes said.

The same-sex couple that sued Davis for not issuing a marriage license said, in a separate court filing, that Davis is “requiring her clerk to issue licenses in his capacity as a ‘notary public’ rather than a deputy clerk. …”

Hughes said: “Mr. Mason’s concern is he does not want to be the party that is issuing invalid marriage licenses and he is trying to follow the court’s mandate as well as his superior ordering him to issue only these changed forms. …”

“It also appears to this counsel those change were made in some attempt to circumvent the court’s orders and may have raised to the level of interference against court’s orders,” Hughes said.

Davis lawyer: ‘No new development’

The lawyer for Davis, Mat Staver, issued a statement Saturday saying, “there is no new development with this report.”

“Kim Davis said Monday that her name and title would not appear on the forms and later that same day the Governor said the forms were valid,” Staver said. “And Judge (David) Bunning’s order releasing Kim Davis said a form altered by Brian the day after the contempt hearing while Kim was in jail was valid. …

“Kim Davis did not interfere with the Deputy Clerk’s issuance of the licenses and in fact licenses have been issued. The licenses were not altered to circumvent the court’s order nor did Kim Davis circumvent the order.”

Mason’s filing may reopen an emotional court battle over same-sex marriage in this rural north Kentucky county.

A couple sued Davis because she wouldn’t give them a marriage license, despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage across the nation.

She said same-sex marriage violated her Christian beliefs.

Bunning found her in contempt of court and put her in jail. The judge released her September 8, saying he was satisfied her deputies had fulfilled their obligations in her absence.

But Bunning’s new order said Davis cannot interfere with her deputies issuing marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.

Bunning noted that a license issued while she was behind bars had been “altered so that ‘Rowan County’ rather than ‘Kim Davis’ appears on the line reserved for the name of the county clerk.”

Bunning said he had no objections to those changes. The judge didn’t address the changes mentioned in Mason’s filing, such as the notarization and the initials replacing the signature.

Gay couple has questions

Bunning hasn’t responded yet to Mason’s concern. He assigned lawyers to all the deputy clerks to provide updates on the cases, such as the one Hughes filed on Friday.

Mason, by mutual agreement, is the only person in the office issuing same-sex marriage licenses, Hughes said.

In another development, ACLU lawyers for the gay couple who sued Davis filed a brief urging the judge to allow the lawsuit to take class-action status.

Those lawyers also mentioned the changes to the form Davis made.

“These alterations call into question the validity of the marriage licenses issued, create an unconstitutional two-tier system of marriage licenses issued in Kentucky and do not comply with this court’s September 3 order prohibiting Davis from interfering with the issuance of marriage licenses,” they wrote.