GRAYSON, Ky. — Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis will spend Labor Day weekend in isolation at the Carter County Detention Center with her Bible and her clear conscience.
At least three same-sex couples will spend the weekend planning weddings after finally receiving the marriage licenses they asked for months ago but were denied because Davis believes gay marriage is a sin.
The Rowan County Clerk’s office issued the licenses to same-sex couples on Friday under threat of jail time or fines if they didn’t comply with a federal judge’s order. While the licenses were freely given, the drama surrounding the clerk does not appear to be ending anytime soon. Davis met with her attorneys in jail Friday and told them she would “never violate her conscience or betray her God.”
U.S. District Judge David Bunning has said he will not release Davis unless she agrees to obey his order. Davis’ attorneys said the only way she would relent would be to change Kentucky’s state law so that marriage licenses are not issued under the authority of the county clerk. They claim the licenses that were issued were not valid.
The state legislature will not meet again until January. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has refused to call a special session, arguing it would waste taxpayer money to bring the legislature back on an issue that so far only affects one elected official. That means Davis could potentially be in jail for months until the state legislature has a chance to change the law early next year.
Davis’ supporters are not backing down. They planned a “Free Kim Davis” rally in front of the jail on Saturday and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said he planned to meet with Davis on Tuesday.
Kim Davis’ husband, Joe, said his wife will stay in jail how “ever how long it takes,” noting that she has held a Bible study at the Rowan County Detention Center every Monday night for the past few years.
“She’s not going to resign, she’s not going to sacrifice her conscience, so she’s doing what Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, which is to pay the consequences for her decision,” said Mat Staver, one of Davis’ attorneys and founder of the Florida-based legal group Liberty Counsel.
Davis’ attorneys said the licenses issued Friday are not “worth the paper they are written on” because Davis did not authorize them. But attorneys for the gay couples who sued her along with the elected Rowan County attorney said the licenses were valid. U.S. District Judge David Bunning said he did not know if the licenses were valid but ordered them issued anyway.
James Yates and William Smith were the first couple through the door, pushing through a thick scrum of cameras and microphones to pay $35.50 for a marriage license. They embraced through tears once the deputy clerk, Brian Mason, handed the form back to them and told them “congratulations.” Yates, with Smith clutching his arm, dashed across the courtyard to hug his mother.
“Civil rights are civil rights and they are not subject to belief,” said Yates, who had been denied a license five times previously.
Dozens of protesters on both sides filled the courtyard with sound systems and signs, and a few even made their way inside to heckle gay couples. Timothy and Michael Long did not respond when a man wearing a white dress shirt and a black tie called them perverts as they were filling out their license. The couple had a commitment ceremony seven years ago but wanted to make their marriage official.
April Miller and Karen Roberts, the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit that landed Davis behind bars, got their license around midday. Miller emerged in the bright sunshine holding her license above her head while Roberts let out a joyous whoop as supporters cheered.
“Now we can breathe. I’m still ecstatic and happy. I just can’t wait to get married now,” Roberts said.
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