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Kentucky Clerk Defies Supreme Court Ruling In Denying Marriage Licenses


The small town of Morehead, Ky., has been thrust into the national spotlight because of a county clerk there. She's refusing to issue marriage licenses, defying the U.S. Supreme Court. Kim Davis says same-sex marriage goes against her religious beliefs. Kentucky Public Radio's Ryland Barton was at the Rowan County Courthouse today.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Do your job, do your job, do your job.

RYLAND BARTON, BYLINE: A little before 8 this morning, the Rowan County clerk's office was already packed.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Do your job, do your job, do your job.

BARTON: Scores of people turned out to see if County Clerk Kim Davis would issue marriage licenses to a same-sex couple, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay an order requiring Davis to resume issuing marriage licenses. Once again, she didn't.


KIM DAVIS: We are not issuing marriage licenses today, so...

DAVID MOORE: Based on what?

DAVIS: I would ask you all to go ahead and...

MOORE: Why are you not issuing marriage licenses today?

DAVIS: Because I'm not.


DAVID ERMOLD: Under who's authority are you not issuing licenses?

DAVIS: Under God's authority.

MOORE: Did God tell you to do this? Did God tell you to treat us like this?

BARTON: That's Davis talking with local residents David Moore and David Ermold, who have been trying to get married here in Morehead since July. At least four couples tried to get marriage licenses this morning. All were denied. Last month, a U.S. district court ordered Davis to resume issuing marriage licenses, saying that her religious beliefs cannot prevent her from performing her duties as an elected official. Davis's continuing objections went all the way to the Supreme Court. Now Davis risks being held in contempt. She says she won't leave her beliefs behind and won't resume issuing marriage licenses for anyone, even if the court disagrees with her.


DAVIS: I'm willing to face my consequences as you all will face your consequences when it comes time for judgment.

BARTON: Davis stopped issuing licenses after the Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage in June. She argues giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples burdens her religious beliefs and that her actions are protected by Kentucky and federal religious freedom laws. After Davis's latest refusal to issue licenses today, she was ordered back to court on Thursday to determine whether she will be held in contempt for her actions. University of Louisville law professor Sam Marcosson says each day she violates the law she could face steep penalties.

SAM MARCOSSON: All you have to do is stop paying the fines, and to stop it from escalating per day is to start issuing marriage licenses. And if that doesn't work after a given amount of time, then now we'll move to the greater penalties and a court could order her to be jailed.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Do your job, do your job, do your job, do your job, do your job, do your job.

BARTON: A statewide media poll released last month found that 53 percent of Kentucky voters disagreed with the Supreme Court's decision. Today, an equal number of Davis supporters and opponents showed up to the courthouse. Local Pastor Randy Smith organized a group of 50 Davis supporters. He says the country needs more officials to stand up for their religious beliefs after the same-sex ruling.

RANDY SMITH: Well, she's only living by her conviction. Integrity in office is something that this land needs. We need more of it.

BARTON: Kentucky political leaders of both parties have said they support passing a law that would exempt clerks from having to issue marriage licenses. And it will likely be an issue in the next legislative session in January. Kentucky is one of several states that had a law banning same-sex marriage. Voters passed it in 2004 with 73 percent in favor. For NPR News, I'm Ryland Barton in Morehead, Ky. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryland Barton
Ryland is the state capitol reporter for the Kentucky Public Radio Network, a group of public radio stations including WKU Public Radio. A native of Lexington, Ryland has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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