County Clerk Refuses To Issue Marriage Licenses If Gay Couples Can Get Them Too

Photo: REX.
It has been nearly two months since the Supreme Court ruled that same sex couples can marry in every state across America — but that doesn't mean that every city is upholding the letter of the law.

In Kentucky, a Rowan county clerk named Kim Davis decided that she would no longer be issuing marriage licenses to heterosexual and same-sex couples, in a reaction to June's landmark decision. Davis cited her religious beliefs as the reason for rejecting these requests, which ultimately catapulted the issue into court after four couples — two heterosexual, and two same-sex — filed a lawsuit.

On August 12, Judge David L. Bunning of the United States District Court of Eastern Kentucky ruled that Davis must issue marriage licenses, explaining that the county clerk is violating the U.S. Constitution by practicing a "policy that promotes her own religious convictions at the expenses of others."

He also said that while Davis is free to observe her faith, "her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk," according to the Associated Press.

ACLU LGBT Project Staff Attorney Ria Tabacco Mar echoed that point in a statement to Refinery29. “The court found that couples seeking to marry will suffer irreparable harm because of Clerk Davis’s unlawful refusal to carry out the duties that she swore an oath to perform," she explained. "There is simply no basis for any further delay.”

Davis was absent from work on August 13, delaying justice another day. Kentucky state law does not allow a county judge-executive to sign marriage licenses in the county clerk's stead unless the county clerk is absent from the job. Bunning has refused to qualify Davis as "absent" since she is missing work due to her religious beliefs; no one else can legally take on this role until Davis is officially qualified as absent.

That means that couples — same sex and otherwise — in Morehead must go elsewhere if they want to get their licenses. "I will say that people are cruel, they are cruel, these people are cruel," said David Ermold, who could not obtain a marriage license with his partner of nearly two decades, told AP.

"This is how gay people are treated in this country," he said. "This is what it's like. This is how it feels."

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