Standoff over gay marriage licenses wears on, despite supreme court ruling
A clerk in a rural Kentucky county continued to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples Thursday in defiance of a mounting pile of federal court orders that reject her claim that her Christian faith should exempt her from licensing a gay union.
The United States Supreme Court, which two months ago legalized gay marriage across the nation, will now be asked to consider whether Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis can continue to deny marriage licenses until her appeal is complete, a process that could drag out for several more months.
“It’s getting tedious. We get torn down, built back up, torn down, built back up,” said David Ermold. He and his partner, David Moore, have been rejected by Davis’ office twice. “It’s emotionally draining that this keeps happening over and over.”
Days after the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, Davis announced that her religious convictions prevented her from sanctioning a gay marriage. She refused to issue licenses to any couple, gay or straight.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued her last month on behalf of four couples. U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to issue marriage licenses two weeks ago. He later delayed that ruling until Aug. 31 or until the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling. The appeals court did so on Wednesday, denying Davis’ appeal.
But a deputy clerk in Davis’ office on Thursday told William Smith Jr. and James Yates, a couple for nearly a decade, the office believes Bunning’s delay remains in effect until Aug. 31. He refused to give his name or give them a license.
Smith and Yates, rejected for the third time, left the office shaking their heads in anger and bewilderment.
Davis, meanwhile, sat in her office with the door closed. She talked on the phone, ignoring the commotion as Yates and Smith, trailed by television cameras, poured in through the door and demanded answers.
“The court of appeals did not provide any religious accommodation rights to individuals, which makes little sense because at the end of the day it’s individuals that are carrying out the acts of the office,” said Mat Staver, whose religious law firm Liberty Counsel is representing Davis. “They don’t lose their individual constitutional rights just because they are employed in a public office.”
Staver told The Associated Press he plans to file an emergency petition with the Supreme Court on Thursday or Friday. He wants the court to delay the judge’s order until the appeal is completed, a process that could take several months.