U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning rejected Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ claim that her Christian faith should exempt her from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and ordered her on Wednesday to hand out the licenses. “Though she has six employees authorized to issue licenses, deputy clerk Nathan Davis said the office was advised by its attorneys with the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel to continue refusing same-sex couples as it appeals the judge’s decision”.
The couple joined three other couples – two of them straight – in suing Davis after she stopped issuing all marriage licenses following the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
James Yates and Will Smith Jr. were denied a marriage license in Rowan County on Thursday. But lawyers for Davis immediately appealed and sought a stay; Thursday morning, Davis did not show up at work. “The proponents of gay marriage simply want to force people, especially Christians, to accept what they are doing”. They handed one couple who demanded an explanation a Post-it note with Liberty Counsel’s toll-free phone number.
“People are cruel, and this is wrong”, said David Ermold, 41, who with his partner, David Moore, 39, were told that no licenses would be issued Thursday.
“[Kim] Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs”, wrote Judge Bunning in his 28-page verdict.
However Davis has refused to submit to the order, turning away a gay couple that had a copy of the order on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
South Dakota’s attorney general has granted consent to county clerks with conscientious objections to opt out of issuing homosexual “marriage” licenses, providing another clerk in the office will issue the license.
Another applicant, Sahara Gentry, said she wanted to “prove a point” and drove with her partner from Berea to request a license in Rowan County so that officials could see the faces of people they are turning down.
Davis was absent when they returned – the official story is she’s on vacation.
They described a disconnect between the clerk’s office and their experience in the community of Morehead, a college town they say has long been open and accepting.
Outside the clerk’s office, protesters held signs which read “Love won” and “Do your job”.
But, he added, “her religious convictions can not excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform”.
Spokesman Martin Cothran said in a statement that same-sex couples are now considered a privileged class and that couples in Rowan County have multiple alternatives to obtain a license.
But Randy Smith, an evangelist who ministers to a local elderly group and has rallied in support of Davis, said the protests are driven by people from the university and that most in the county “stand solidly” behind Davis.
Laura Landenwich, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the 28-page ruling reveals that the judge combed through Davis’ legal arguments and rejected each. “This is how it feels”. She declined to comment, except to say it broke her heart and there was nothing she could do to help them.