Tag Archives: Rowan County

Gay couples get licenses, Kentucky clerk seeks martyrdom

A gay couple emerged from a county clerk’s office in Morehead, Kentucky, with a marriage license in hand early on Sept. 4, embracing and crying, as the defiant clerk who runs the office remained jailed for repeatedly refusing to allow the licenses to be issued.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has insisted that forcing her to affirm same-sex marriage violates her religious convictions as a born-again, fundamentalist Christian. To date, she’s lost her fight at every level of federal court, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

After being denied a marriage license four times prior, William Smith Jr. and James Yates, a couple for nearly a decade, were the first to receive one in Rowan County. Deputy clerk Brian Mason issued the license, congratulating the couple and shaking their hands as he smiled.

“This means at least for this area that civil rights are civil rights and they are not subject to belief,” Yates said. 

A crowd of supporters cheered outside as the couple left, while a street preacher rained down words of condemnation. Yates and Smith said they are trying to choose between two wedding dates and plan a small ceremony at the home of Yates’ parents.

The licenses were issued after five of Davis’ deputy clerks agreed to provide them. The lone holdout in the office was Davis’ son, Nathan Davis. And Kim Davis’ office was dark as the first license was issued.

That’s because Kim Davis, at the time, was in jail for contempt of court.

In contempt

During a hearing the day before, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to be taken to jail unless she promised not to interfere with her employees issuing licenses. She refused, citing her Christian beliefs.

Speaking to reporters, Davis’ fourth husband, Joe Davis, held a sign saying, “Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah.” He said his wife was in good spirits after her first night in jail.

Kim Davis would spend four more nights in jail before Bunning released her on Sept. 8.

During that time, Davis, through her legal representation at the ultra-right-wing Liberty Counsel, sought legislative relief from abiding by federal law and the federal order. But Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear refused to call a special session of the Legislature, which will not convene until January 2016.

‘A good person’

Davis, an Apostolic Christian, wept during her testimony in court on Sept. 3, telling the judge she was “always a good person” and that she gave her heart to the Lord in 2011 and “promised to love Him with all my heart, mind and soul because I wanted to make heaven my home.”

“God’s moral law conflicts with my job duties,” Davis told the judge before she was taken away by a U.S. marshal. “You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul.”

But prior to finding Jesus and imposing what she believes to be his teachings on others, Davis led a life that critics have derided as ungodly. Internet commenters have lambasted Davis as a hypocrite for her multiple marriages and adulterous affairs. Her marital history reads like a soap opera plot: She became pregnant with twins by her third husband while married to her first husband. She then convinced her second husband to adopt them, before leaving him and marrying the twins’ father — only to leave him, too, for her fourth husband.

Davis is trying to raise money to cover her legal bills with the anti-gay Liberty Counsel. Gofundme.com refused to post an appeal on her behalf, citing its policy of not providing a platform for people who have broken the law.

The notorious anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church has joined the chorus of voices speaking out against Davis. Westboro members tweeted that Davis is going to hell along with the gay couples she refused to marry.

But around the country, other evangelical supporters reached for Biblical heroes, comparing Davis to Silas and Daniel, imprisoned for their faith and rescued by God.

It’s precisely the narrative gay rights advocates had hoped to avoid. But as Davis’ mug shot rocketed around the Internet, it became clear that the gay rights movement must battle the argument that Christianity is under siege, said Kenneth Upton, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, a civil liberties group focused on LGBT rights.

“This is what the other side wants,” Upton said, pointing to the image of Davis in handcuffs. “This is a Biblical story, to go to jail for your faith. We don’t want to make her a martyr to the people who are like her, who want to paint themselves as victims.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing couples Kim Davis turned away, had asked that she be fined rather than imprisoned, in part to avoid “a false persecution story,” said attorney Dan Canon.

But Bunning ordered her to jail anyway, reasoning that she would be unmoved by monetary penalties.

“I think he was trying to make an example of Kim Davis and he may well do so,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which has been designated an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Courage breeds courage, especially when it comes from unlikely places. She may be the example that sparks a firestorm of resistance across this country.”

Chris Hartman, director of Louisville’s Fairness Campaign, dismissed the small number of holdout clerks as a “blip on the radar of civil rights.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in June, only about 17 clerks and judges, many of them advised by the Liberty Counsel, have refused to comply. They stopped issuing marriage licenses to any couple, gay or straight. Davis was the first to be challenged in court.

Rosa Parks or George Wallace?

Yet Davis is suddenly famous around the globe as the face of Christian resistance to gay marriage.

After meeting with Davis in jail, Liberty Counsel attorney Mat Staver said “she is a prisoner of her conscience.” He quoted the letter Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from his Birmingham jail cell in 1963, rallying civil rights activists to challenge unjust laws and pay the consequences if necessary to force peaceful change.

He described Davis as the first American imprisoned for a religious objection to gay marriage.

The lawyers suing her dismissed that notion. “This is the billionth time a person has been jailed for violating a court order,” Canon said.

Historically, backlash has proven inevitable in the face of sweeping social change. When the Supreme Court ordered the integration of public schools in the 1960s, many local officials refused to comply with the ruling. The National Guard had to be sent to Southern cities and towns to escort African-American students into what were previously all-white schools. Racists cited biblical passages to justify their actions.

“It’s ironic when you think about it, when the basis of being oppressed is that people won’t let you discriminate anymore,” said Lambda Legal’s Upton. “It’s like an Alice in Wonderland world.”

Columbia Law School professor Katherine Franke, who has studied the intersection of public service and personal faith, said Davis has “elected to make herself a martyr.

And some in the crowded field of Republican presidential candidates are backing her. Candidate Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, visited Kentucky to meet with Davis and join demonstrators at a rally the day she was released from jail. Huckabee said, “We must end the criminalization of Christianity.”

Meanwhile, GOP candidates Carly Fiorina and Lindsey Graham said Davis should follow the law or resign.

And even some conservative veterans of “religious freedom” fights worried that Davis makes a bad case for martyrdom.

Her insistence on keeping her elected position while ignoring federal court orders was sharply criticized in the National Review and The American Conservative, and Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker, who serve on the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote that “religious liberty itself will be imperiled” if people “cannot differentiate between the freedom to exercise one’s religion and the responsibility of agents of the state to carry out the law.”

Still, Perkins and others on the religious right promised that dozens of Kim Davises are ready to go to jail in defense of their religious freedoms.

Returning to office

Davis walked out of the Carter County Detention Center’s front door on Sept. 8, arm-in-arm with Staver and Huckabee as thousands of supporters cheered and waved white crosses backed by a 150-voice church choir. Some in the crowd sang “Amazing Grace” and “God Bless America.”

Bunning lifted the contempt ruling saying he was satisfied that her deputies were fulfilling their obligation to grant licenses to same-sex couples in her absence. But Bunning’s order was clear: If Davis interferes with the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples upon her return, she could go right back to jail.

As WiG went to press on Sept. 9, it was unclear whether Davis would follow Bunning’s order or continue to ignore the court and the law, as she repeatedly did before her jailing.

“I just want to give God the glory. His people have rallied, and you are a strong people,” Davis said after her release, her arms raised and with “Eye of the Tiger” playing.

Staver told the press that Davis “will not violate her conscience” and that she will not resign from her elected job, which pays $80,000 a year and which she inherited from her mother.

Staver also said the marriage licenses issued while Davis was jailed were not valid because they were not given under the authority of the county clerk, a claim the Kentucky attorney general’s office disputes.

‘Oaths mean things’

In jailing Kim Davis, a judge noted the Kentucky county clerk had sworn an oath to perform her job.

Here is the oath of office taken by Davis: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky so long as I continue a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of … according to law; and I do further solemnly swear … that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I, being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.”

Supreme Court denies stay request, same-sex couples to marry in Kentucky county

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied, without dissent, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis her request for a stay of an order from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that required her to issue marriage licenses immediately to couples in the case Miller v. Davis.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, Davis repeatedly refused to issue marriage licenses to any couple based on religious beliefs about marriage for same-sex couples. 

On Aug. 12, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled that plaintiffs in this case must be able to obtain marriage licenses in Rowan County.

Davis proceeded to appeal that decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and when her request for a stay pending appeal was denied, she requested a stay pending appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court so that she may continue to refuse issuing marriage licenses.

Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “Today  the U.S. Supreme Court resoundingly affirmed that government officials must carry out the duties of public office. By refusing to simply issue a form, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has prevented our clients, four loving couples, from obtaining marriage licenses in the county where they live and pay taxes. Davis has no basis for any further delay in denying couples the freedom to marry.”

“Ms. Davis’ choices are clear: she must either choose to follow the law or resign her public position,” said JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president for policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign. “A public official’s personal religious opinion does not give her the privilege to trample over the rights of others.  Freedom of religion is important, and Ms. Davis has the fundamental right to believe what she likes. But as a public servant, she does not have the right to pick and choose which laws she will follow or which services she will provide. We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied the stay.” HRC is the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group.

Davis, who is represented by the ultra-rightwing Liberty Counsel, issued a statement on Sept. 1. Her statement, without edits, follows:

I have worked in the Rowan County Clerk’s office for 27 years as a Deputy Clerk and was honored to be elected as the Clerk in November 2014, and took office in January 2015. I love my job and the people of Rowan County. I have never lived any place other than Rowan County. Some people have said I should resign, but I have done my job well. This year we are on track to generate a surplus for the county of 1.5 million dollars.

In addition to my desire to serve the people of Rowan County, I owe my life to Jesus Christ who loves me and gave His life for me. Following the death of my godly mother-in-law over four years ago, I went to church to fulfill her dying wish. There I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God.

I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word. It is a matter of religious liberty, which is protected under the First Amendment, the Kentucky Constitution, and in the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Our history is filled with accommodations for people’s religious freedom and conscience. I want to continue to perform my duties, but I also am requesting what our Founders envisioned – that conscience and religious freedom would be protected. That is all I am asking. I never sought to be in this position, and I would much rather not have been placed in this position. I have received death threats from people who do not know me. I harbor nothing against them. I was elected by the people to serve as the County Clerk. I intend to continue to serve the people of Rowan County, but I cannot violate my conscience.

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What will Jesus do? | Anti-gay Kentucky clerk who refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses did issue one for transgender man and his wife

A transgender man and his pansexual wife say that embattled anti-gay Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis signed off on their marriage in March after failing to notice that the groom’s birth certificate identified his birth gender as female.

Davis has been in the crosshairs of marriage equality advocates ever since she ordered her staff to stop issuing all marriage licenses following June’s Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality. Davis, who has been married four times, said she objects to having her name appear on same-sex marriage licenses due to her deeply felt religious convictions about the sanctity of marriage.

But on March 2 she signed a marriage certificate for Alexis and Camryn Colen. The couple believes that she was unaware that Camryn is a transgender male, according to BuzzFeed news, which spoke to the couple and was provided with a copy of their marriage certificate.

The certificate reads: “I, Kim Davis, Clerk of the County and State aforesaid, do hereby certify that the above and foregoing is a true and correct copy of the Marriage Certificate as recorded.”

Camryn told BuzzFeed that he and his wife went public with their gender and sexual identities in order to push Davis to begin recognizing same-sex marriages.

That’s something Davis has vowed she will never do, despite multiple court rulings against her stance. Most recently, she filed an “emergency” appeal directly to Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan, who has jurisdiction over her region and voted to strike down laws banning same-sex marriage. Kagan is expected to turn down Davis’ appeal on Monday.

After that, it’s unclear what Davis will do.

Like Hitler, only without the genocide

Davis’ attorney Jonathan D. Christman, with the Christian-right law firm Liberty Counsel, wrote the court that forcing Davis to abandon what she claims to be her “Christian principles” by issuing “licenses could never be undone” and would “would forever, and irreversibly, echo in her conscience — and, “if it happened, there is no absolution or correction that any earthly court can provide to rectify it.”

It’s unknown whether Jesus will provide her with absolution for the license she signed marrying a transgender man and pansexual woman, although opinions from clerics who regularly communicate with the Almighty are certain to surface in the coming days.

Christman compared Davis’ situation to forcing a person who objects to war into the battlefield or forcing a person who opposes capital punishment to carry out an execution.

The Rowan County Clerk’s office is somewhat of a hotbed of nepotism. Davis’ mother previously held her position as clerk, and several family members, including her son and a cousin, work — or have worked — there.

Davis contends that if gay couples want to get married, they could easily drive to a nearby county to get a marriage license. But the couples counter that they have a right to get a marriage license in the county where they live, work and pay taxes.

Davis has said she will not resign from her $80,000-a-year job nor will she ever license a same-sex marriage.

Davis cannot be fired because she is an elected official. The Legislature could impeach her, but that is unlikely given that many state lawmakers in the largely fundamentalist Christian state share her belief that Jesus will forgive anything except issuing a same-sex marriage license.

The Republican president of the state Senate spoke at a rally last week in support of Davis, whose case is increasingly becoming a cause celebre on Fox News and among religious and anti-government fanatics. They claim that the federal government has degenerated into fascism by ordering government officials to carry out laws they don’t like. Many compare Davis’ plight to that of Jews living in Nazi Germany, only without the concentration camps and genocide.

Having lost all appeals, anti-gay Kentucky clerk turns to Supreme Court for right to refuse gay marriage licenses

Two months after it legalized gay marriage nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked by a Kentucky county clerk for permission to keep denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who objects to gay marriage for religious reasons, asked the nation’s highest court Friday to grant her “asylum for her conscience.”

The Supreme Court ruled in June that the Constitution guarantees gay people the right to marry. But Davis contends the First Amendment guarantees her the right of religious freedom.

Her critics accuse Davis of having conveniently selective religious convictions, since she’s been married four times and the Bible condemns divorce far more than homosexuality.

She stopped issuing all marriage licenses in the days after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her, arguing that she must fulfill her duties as an elected official despite her personal Christian conviction. A federal judge ordered Davis to issue the licenses and an appeals court upheld that decision.

Davis’ lawyers said they filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court Friday, asking that they delay the mandate to issue licenses until her appeal is finished, a process that could stretch for months.

Forcing her to abandon what she claims to be her “Christian: principles and issue licenses could never be undone, her attorney, Jonathan D. Christman, with the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel, wrote the court. He compared it to forcing a person who objects to war into the battlefield, or forcing a person who opposes capital punishment to carry out an execution.

“That searing act of personal validation would forever, and irreversibly, echo in her conscience — and, if it happened, there is no absolution or correction that any earthly court can provide to rectify it,” he wrote.

But Davis has not only refused to grant such licenses herself but also forbidden her staff, some of whom have expressed their willingness, to issue them. The Rowan County Clerk’s office is somewhat of a hotbed of nepotism. Davis’ mother previously held her position as clerk, and several family members, including her son, work — or have worked — there.

Davis contends that if gay couples want to get married, they could easily drive to a nearby county to get a marriage license. But the couples counter that they have a right to get a marriage license in the county where they live, work and pay taxes.

Davis has said she will not resign from her $80,000-a-year job, and vowed that her office will never license a same-sex marriage. She has turned couples away for two months, in defiance of a series of court orders.

Davis cannot be fired because she is an elected official. The Legislature could impeach her, but that is unlikely given that many state lawmakers in Kentucky are Christian fundamentalists who share her belief, which seems to be that Jesus will forgive everything except issuing a same-sex marriage license.

The Republican president of the state Senate spoke at a rally last week in support of Davis.

Kentucky clerk to continue to deny marriage rights to gay couples through her appeal

Same-sex couples in a small eastern Kentucky county got everything they wanted in a ruling from a federal judge on Aug. 17, except for one sentence and except marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning denied Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ request to delay his ruling from last week ordering her to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. That ruling followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. However, Bunning then delayed his own decision, effectively granting Davis’ request while also denying it.

“If the Court decided to delay enforcement of its Order while Davis pursues an unpromising appeal, it would essentially give Plaintiffs a favorable legal ruling with no teeth and prolong the likely violation of their constitutional rights,” Bunning wrote.

But Bunning acknowledged that “emotions are running high on both sides of this debate” and said he would delay his ruling while Davis appeals to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Attorneys on both sides disagreed about the implications.

Dan Canon, representing the gay couples, said Davis remains under the judge’s original order.

But Mat Staver, who represents Davis and is the founder of Florida-based Liberty Counsel, said the convoluted order essentially grants her request for more time.

What is clear is that Davis will continue refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone in this county of about 23,000 people, home to Morehead State University in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky. Until the case is resolved, no new wedding can be legally recognized in Rowan County unless the couple obtain a marriage license somewhere else.

“This is not something I decided because of this decision that came down,” Davis testified in federal court last month. “It was thought-out and, you know, I sought God on it.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. But it also “ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”

Bunning, and now the court of appeals, are left with the narrow issue of whether that ruling infringes on a local elected official’s religious beliefs.

Bunning says no, arguing that Davis is “free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do.”

“However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk,” he wrote last week.

Davis’ lawyers compare her to other religious objectors, such as a nurse being forced to perform an abortion, a noncombatant ordered to fire on an enemy soldier, or a state official forced to participate in a convicted prisoner’s execution.

Clerking has been a family business in Rowan County. Davis worked for her mother for 27 years before replacing her in the elected post this year, and her son Nathan now works for her. He personally turned away a gay couple last week.

Around the United States, most opponents of gay and lesbian marriage rights are complying with the high court. Some other objectors in Kentucky submitted to the legal authorities after Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear told them to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples, or resign.

Kim Davis is one of the last holdouts, and apparently the first to be challenged in federal court, putting her and tiny Rowan County in the middle of one of the country’s largest social upheavals.

Davis wants Kentucky lawmakers to allow county clerks to opt out of issuing marriage licenses for religious reasons. But the governor has declined to call a special session. Davis faces fines and possible jail time for contempt of court if she loses her challenge and still refuses to issue licenses. But she can only be impeached from her $80,000 a year job by the legislature, and impeachment proceedings are unlikely even after the lawmakers reconvene in January.

Davis, through her attorney, declined to be interviewed. Acquaintances describe her as easygoing but reserved. She hid behind her attorneys to avoid being photographed in a courthouse hallway and had to be told to speak up from the witness stand.

Shortly after she took office in January, she said she wrote every state lawmaker she could and pleaded to change the law, to no avail. So, on June 26 – the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide – Davis told her staff not to process any more licenses until further notice, no matter who asked.

Under Kentucky law, marriages must be licensed by a county clerk, who first determines if the couple meet all legal requirements – such as being unmarried, and old enough. And because every license issued in Rowan County is under her authority, she feels she can’t delegate the job to a non-objector.

“If I say that I authorize that, I’m saying I agree with it, and I can’t,” Davis told the court.

Rowan County Judge Executive Walter Blevins can issue marriage licenses if the clerk is “absent,” but the term is undefined in state law. Both Blevins and Bunning decided Davis not issuing licenses for religious reasons does not mean she is absent. That leaves Davis, for now, firmly in control.

Davis said her beliefs on sin are shaped by “God’s holy word” in the Bible, and that she attends church “every time the doors are open.” She also leads a weekly women’s Bible study at the county jail.

“I love them. They’re the best part of my Monday,” Davis said.

Davis testified that the Bible teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman and that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Court records indicate Davis herself married when she was 18 in 1984, filed for divorce 10 years later, and then filed for divorce again, from another husband, in 2006.

Many Christians believe divorce also is a sin, and an attorney for the same-sex couples repeatedly questioned her about this in court. Asked if she would religiously object to issuing a marriage license to someone who has been divorced, she said, “That’s between them and God.”

Davis has not said how she would react should she lose her appeal.

“I’ll deal with that when the time comes,” she said.

Kentucky clerk continues defying orders to issue same-sex marriage licenses

A gay couple marched into the county clerk’s office Aug. 13, carrying a federal judge’s order that said the clerk can’t deny them a marriage license based on her deeply held Christian beliefs.

Still, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ office turned them away.

Davis, who’e reportedly been married four times, was among a handful of clerks across the country to cite “deeply held religious beliefs” in denying gay marriage licenses after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in June. She was the first to be sued and her attorneys vowed to keep fighting in a case legal experts have likened the resistance some local officials put up five decades ago when the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage.

“We’re going to keep coming back,” said Karen Roberts, shaking after she was denied a license to marry April Miller, her partner of 11 years. “We’re going to fight this to the very end.”

Three other couples streamed into the clerk’s office in this eastern Kentucky college town throughout the morning, and all were denied.

Staff in Davis’ office said she was on vacation. Though she has six employees authorized to issue licenses, deputy clerk Nathan Davis said the office was advised by its attorneys with the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel to continue refusing same-sex couples is it appeals the judge’s decision.

The staff handed one couple a Post-it note with Liberty Counsel’s toll-free phone number.

“Kim Davis is just an example of what’s going to be happening not only to other clerks but to other people who are going to be confronted with this issue and we think that this is a serious matter that needs to be decided by a higher court, even the Supreme Court,” said Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver.

Clerks and judges in pockets across the South halted issuing licenses in the days after the Supreme Court’s decision. Some resigned rather than acknowledge a same-sex marriage. Others relented under the threat of legal action and began handing them out. It’s not clear exactly how many clerks nationwide are still refusing to issue licenses, but at least one other county clerk in Kentucky has pledged that he would not.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has told defiant clerks, who are elected, to issue licenses or resign.

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning said in his ruling that Davis has likely violated the U.S. Constitution’s protection against the establishment of a religion by “openly adopting a policy that promotes her own religious convictions at the expenses of others.”

“Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs. She may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible Study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County Jail. She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do,” Bunning wrote. “However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk.”

Davis’ attorneys have asked the judge for a stay, and Bunning has not yet ruled.

In the meantime, Laura Landenwich, an attorney for the couples, said they are considering asking the judge to hold Davis in contempt, which could carry a hefty fine or the threat of jail time.

Davis, elected last November as a Democrat, took over the office from her mother, Jean Bailey, who served as county clerk for 37 years, according to the Morehead News. Davis worked under her mother as a deputy clerk for 26 years. Nathan Davis refused to say if he is related to Kim Davis.

The battle has exposed the deep rift that remains in this county of 23,000 people, considered to be among the most progressive in Appalachian Kentucky.

James Yates and William Smith Jr., a couple for nearly a decade, said there was a difference between the clerk’s actions and their experience in Morehead. They held hands as they walked into the clerk’s office, and gay rights activists, who have lined the street with rainbow signs and flags every day for more than a month, shouted “Good luck!”

Still, some of the couples struggled to reconcile their support in the community and the rejection at the county clerk’s office.

David Ermold broke down in the county’s judge-executive’s office, after he was denied a license to marry David Moore, his partner of 17 years. He felt angry and humiliated.

“I will say that people are cruel, they are cruel, these people are cruel,” Ermold said, tears welling in his eyes. “This is how gay people are treated in this country. This is what it’s like. This is how it feels.”

The county judge executive’s secretary, Lois L. Hawkins, started to cry with him. She declined to comment, except to say it broke her heart and there was nothing she could do to help them.