In a stinging rebuke in Tuesday’s midterm election, voters in a northeastern Kentucky county tossed out the county clerk who went to jail in 2015 for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling making gay marriage the law of the land.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis won 46 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election tallies that showed Democrat Elwood Caudill Jr. with 54 percent of the vote. Caudill won the right to challenge Davis after defeating primary candidate David Ermold, who had sued Davis after she refused to issue a marriage license to him and David Moore.
Davis became a national figure when she stopped issuing marriage licenses in the days following the Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as heterosexual couples. Citing her religious beliefs, Davis said she was acting under “God’s authority” and emerged as a champion of religious liberty.
“I believe that as a community we must continue to work together toward a more prosperous and cohesive Rowan County,” Caudill said after his victory, according to a report in the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Tonight was awesome.”
This was Davis’ first election since she defied the new law of the land. Ermold and Moore sued, along with several other gay and straight couples who had been refused marriage licenses. A federal judge ruled that Kentucky taxpayers must foot the $225,000 bill for the plaintiff couples’ lawsuit.
Davis and Caudill have faced off in a race for the county clerk position in 2014, with Davis prevailing by 23 votes as a candidate on the Democratic ticket. Once a Democrat, Davis changed her party affiliation to Republican in 2015, saying the Democratic Party had “abandoned” her.
Davis didn’t back away from her convictions during her fall campaign for the job that pays about $80,000. At a debate, she said she treated all couples equally because she stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether.
Davis parlayed her fame into a book, “Under God’s Authority: The Kim Davis Story,” described as: “Kim chronicles her dramatic encounters with furious, fist-pounding homosexual men and the hate mail that flooded her office.”
Ermold, whose bid to unseat Davis also gained national attention, called Caudill a “homophobe” and said he wouldn’t endorse his campaign. Caudill denied the accusation, and said he would treat everyone equally if elected.
Kentucky’s legislature took action that removes all county clerks’ names from state marriage licenses.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.
Lead photo: Kim Davis, the county clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, works with the county election board on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, in Morehead. Davis, who went to jail in 2015 for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, has lost her bid for a second term as county clerk. (AP Photo/John Flavell)