Supreme Court denies Kim Davis’s request for stay. Will she make a final stand?

Kim Davis really doesn’t want gay and lesbian couples to get married under her watch. At all. But after the Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal yesterday, she may be out of options:

Davis had appealed the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision ordering her to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting today. Justice Elena Kagan denied the request, which would have gone to the full court if at least three justices had indicated that they wanted her case heard.

That’s right: Of the four dissenting justices in the Obergefell v Hodges decision making marriage equality the law of the land, at least two of them didn’t consider Davis’s appeal worthy of consideration.

And we really shouldn’t be that surprised. Thus far, Davis has lost every legal battle she has fought. Court after court and judge after judge have ruled that Davis’s First Amendment rights are not violated by the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. As a public official, she has to do her job or quit. Her personal opinions about changes in her job description don’t change those circumstances in the least.

In her appeal for a stay, Davis argued that the act of signing a marriage license constituted her endorsement of the marriage in question, which is utterly absurd. She doesn’t know any of the people coming into her office for marriage licenses; she just signs the forms.

Kim Davis, screenshot via YouTube

Kim Davis, screenshot via YouTube

The people whose job is it to approve or disapprove of marriages have a different job title. They’re called pastors.

While it’s difficult to remove elected officials such as Davis from office, official misconduct charges have been filed against Davis, who has served as Rowan County Clerk for nearly thirty years (although her last election was relatively close). Davis is also facing multiple lawsuits from both same-sex and opposite-sex couples who have been denied marriage licenses since the Obergefell v Hodges decision.

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern made an increasingly plausible argument yesterday that Davis is being manipulated by her lawyers into taking this fight much farther than she should. Her lawyers, from the Liberty Council, almost certainly know that they have no chance at winning any of the cases they’re arguing on her behalf, but are nonetheless benefitting from the Memories Pizza-style publicity that comes with waxing homophobic and losing, confirming conservatives deepest fears about the Gaystapo’s devious, anti-Christian agenda. As Stern wrote:

Good lawyers don’t usually tell their clients to defy lawful court orders, especially when jail time is a real possibility. Yet the Liberty Counsel didn’t mind putting their client at risk—perhaps because the idea of a middle-aged woman being hauled off to jail for purportedly following her conscience would send thousands of anti-gay Americans reaching for their pitchforks (and checkbooks).

Davis is planning on showing up to work today. She is not planning on issuing marriage licenses. If and when she fails to carry out her responsibilities, she’ll have dared the state to impose consequences. We could be in for an unnecessarily epic showdown today.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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