With clerk jailed, gay Kentucky couples get marriage license

James Yates, left, hugs his partner William Smith Jr., after receiving their marriage license at the Rowan County Judicial Center in Morehead, Ky., Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. Deputy clerk Brian Mason issued the license, congratulating the couple and shaking their hands as he smiled. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

MOREHEAD, Ky. (KRON/AP) — A gay couple in Kentucky emerged from a county office with a marriage license in hand, one day after a defiant county clerk was jailed for refusing to issue the licenses because she opposed same-sex marriage.

William Smith Jr. and James Yates were the first to receive a marriage license in Rowan County, after five failed attempts. The couple, who has been together for almost a decade, came out of the clerk’s office hand in hand and were met with congratulations from supporters who cheered and chanted, “Love wins!” Opponents in the crowd included a street preacher who shouted words of condemnation.

Yates rushed across the steps of the courthouse to hug his mom as both cried.

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

Deputy clerk Brian Mason issued the license. He was one of Kim Davis’s five deputy clerks who agreed to hand out the licenses after they were called to court on Thursday. The lone holdout from the office was the clerk’s son, Nathan Davis. Her office was dark Friday morning, with a sheriff’s deputy standing guard in front of it.

A second couple, Timothy and Michael Long, also were issued a license about an hour after Yates and Smith. When the couple got inside the office, a man harassed them and said, “More sodomites getting married?” The Longs did not respond, and a worker told the man to leave.

During a hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Bunning had offered to release Davis if she promised not to interfere with her employees issuing licenses, but she refused, citing her Christian beliefs.

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

When asked if she would resign, he said, “Oh, God no. She’s not going to resign at all. It’s a matter of telling Bunning he ain’t the boss.”

Kim Davis and Joe Davis still support her employees, who he called “good people” and “good workers.” He said he ate with the other deputy clerks on Thursday at an Applebee’s restaurant and told them “I loved them and I was proud of them.”

Davis’ son supported his mother and was warned by the judge Thursday not to interfere with his fellow employees. The judge said he did not want “any shenanigans,” like the staff closing the office for computer upgrades as they did briefly last week.

“That would show a level of disrespect for the court’s order,” Bunning said. He added: “I’m hoping that cooler heads will prevail.”

The marriage licenses in the county usually have Davis’ signature on them, but the ones handed out Friday did not have any signature. The county attorney and lawyers for the gay couples said they are legal and valid despite the lack of a signature.

Bunning was asked during Thursday’s hearing about the licenses if Davis refused to authorize them, and he said it was up to the gay couples to take that chance.

The judge indicated Kim Davis would remain in jail at least a week, saying he would revisit his decision after the deputy clerks have had time to comply with his order. Her attorneys planned a news conference later Friday.

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said he would visit Davis in jail next week and planned a rally to support her.

Davis said she hopes the Legislature will change Kentucky laws to find some way for her to keep her job while following her conscience. But Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear again refused to call a special session of the legislature on Thursday. State lawmakers will not meet until January.

Davis, an Apostolic Christian, wept during her testimony in federal court Thursday, telling the judge she was “always a good person” but 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.”

___

Associated Press writer Claire Galofaro in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.

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