After Kentucky Clerk Jailed, Clerk’s Office Issues Marriage License To Gay Couple
(CNN) — With the clerk who had refused them in jail, William Smith Jr. and James Yates on Friday morning became the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky.
Pressing through a throng of reporters, Smith and Yates picked up the marriage license they’d been seeking since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June.
They emerged holding hands shortly after the courthouse opened at 8 a.m., as opponents booed and supporters cheered and chanted, “Love wins!”
“We’re just really happy to finally get married and have it recognized here,” said Yates, who proposed to Smith this summer after a nine-year relationship.
It was the first time that the eastern Kentucky county issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple, with County Clerk Kim Davis refusing on multiple occasions — including Smith and Yates five times, they say — on religious grounds.
But a federal judge ordered her to jail Thursday, ruling that she was in contempt of court for not issuing the licenses.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning said Davis would remain behind bars until she complies. Davis’ supporters say she intends to remain in jail at least until there is a compromise.
Mat Staver, Davis’ attorney, told CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” that his client would issue licenses if her name and title were not on them.
“Because that in her understanding and mind is authorizing something that is contrary to her Christian values and convictions,” he said. “That’s where the conscience rub is.”
Davis’ husband, Joe, told reporters Friday that his wife was willing to remain in jail until the state government allows her to keep her name off the licenses.
“As long as it takes,” Joe Davis said. “Hopefully (Gov. Steve) Beshear will have the guts to do his job.”
Kim Davis has said she couldn’t go against her Christian values. In her absence, five of her deputies agreed to issue marriage licenses, allowing Smith and Yates — and any other couple — to pick theirs up Friday.
Deputies take over
It’s a move that Beshear welcomed.
“The future of the Rowan County Clerk continues to be a matter between her and the courts. Deputy clerks have said they will commence issuing marriage licenses beginning (Friday),” he said. “It appears that the citizens of Rowan County will now have access to all the services from the clerk’s office to which they are entitled.”
In court papers, attorneys for Davis argued that she is unable to comply with the court orders because issuing same-sex marriage licenses “irreparably and irreversibly violates her conscience.”
But American Civil Liberties Union attorneys contended that Davis has no legal basis to avoid performing her duties as a government clerk.
And a federal prosecutor said it was time for Davis and her county to comply.
“Government officials are free to disagree with the law, but not disobey it,” U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey said in a statement. “The County Clerk has presented her position through the federal court system, all of the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is time for the Clerk and the County to follow the law.”
Bunning said he, too, was religious, but he explained that when he took his oath to become a judge, that oath trumped his personal beliefs, CNN affiliate WKYT-TV reported.
“Her good faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” Bunning said.
A different person
Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, which represented Davis, said he was “stunned” by Thursday’s ruling ordering Davis to jail.
“Knowing Kim Davis and her strong Christian resolve and convictions, she may be jailed behind bars, but her conscience remains free.”
Some scoff at the clerk, suggesting she’s a hypocrite because she’s been divorced three times.
Davis said she’s a different person since becoming a Christian 4½ years ago.
“I am not perfect,” she said in a statement. “No one is. But I am forgiven.”