Defying the Supreme Court and invoking “God’s authority,” a Kentucky county clerk on Tuesday turned away two same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses — touching off dueling protests until sheriff’s deputies cleared the room.
The clerk, Kim Davis of Rowan County, outside Lexington, has said that her personal religious objections preclude her from issuing the licenses.
The standoff came one day after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case. That left in place a lower court ruling ordering Davis to issue marriage licenses.
Davis declined marriage licenses to two same-sex couples — two men and two women — who sought them at her office, in the small city of Morehead.
With a crush of TV cameras behind them, one of the couples, David Moore and David Ermold, confronted her across a desk.
“I’m not being disrespectful to you,” Davis told Moore.
“You absolutely are,” he said. “You’re treating us like second-class citizens, is what you’re doing.”
He later asked whether she would deny a marriage license to an interracial couple.
“A man and a woman? No,” she said. She added that she was acting “under God’s authority.”
Supporters of Davis shouted, “Praise the Lord!” and “Stand your ground!” Opponents called her a bigot and chanted, “Do your job!”
Her continued refusal to issue the licenses raises the possibility that the lower court could hold Davis in contempt, perhaps including fines or jail time, if someone seeks such a citation. The couples who sued her were meeting with their lawyer to discuss options.
After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide on June 26, Gov. Steve Beshear ordered all the state’s clerks to comply immediately. Davis, saying she did not want to discriminate, stopped issuing all marriage licenses.
A federal judge ordered her to issue them, and an appeals court agreed. The Supreme Court’s rejection of Davis’ appeal was the first legal skirmish to reach the justices since the landmark marriage ruling in June.
Both sides also staged demonstrations outside the office on Tuesday.