Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk, who stopped issuing all marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling legalizing gay marriage, is on vacation.
On Wednesday, Bunning issued a preliminary injunction ordering Davis’ office to process license applications from all couples, saying she had to live up to her responsibilities as county clerk despite her religious beliefs.
The couple appealed to Rowan Judge-Executive Walter Blevins after being rejected from the clerk’s office.
“It was something I had prayed and fasted over”, Davis said later under oath.
James Yates and Will Smith Jr. were denied a marriage license in Rowan County on Thursday.
Davis’ attorneys appealed the decision and asked the judge for a stay. “This is how gay people are treated in this country”. They handed one couple who demanded an explanation a Post-it note with Liberty Counsel’s toll-free phone number.
“I will say that people are cruel, they are cruel, these people are cruel”, said a tearful David Ermold, who was denied a license to marry his partner of 17 years.
A deputy clerk can be heard citing Davis’ decision to go against the federal judge’s order, and in the end they’re met with that dreaded line “there’s nothing that can be done”.
Shortly after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear ordered the state’s 120 county clerks to begin processing same-sex marriage licenses.
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. She may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible Study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County Jail. Nathan Davis, a relative who also works at the clerk’s office, told Reuters the office was not now taking licenses because of the active litigation.
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. “She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do”, Bunning wrote.
“Her case will go nowhere”, said Katherine Franke, a specialist at Columbia Law School, adding that previous cases in which public officials have sought not to perform their duties on religious grounds have ended much the same way.
“The Court must … point out that the act of issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple merely signifies that the couple has met the legal requirements to marry”.
Laura Landenwich, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said that although couples could get marriage licences elsewhere, they shouldn’t be required to spend the extra time and money. They held hands as they walked into the clerk’s office, and gay rights activists, who have lined the street with rainbow signs and flags every day for more than a month, shouted “Good luck!” This is what it’s like. She declined to comment, except to say it broke her heart and there was nothing she could do to help them.