After Kim Davis is jailed, clerk’s office issues marriage license to gay couple

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Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis was remanded into custody by U.S. District Judge David Bunning Thursday, September 3, 2015. Davis refused to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples stating doing so was against her religious beliefs.

MOREHEAD, Ky.–With the clerk who refused them marriage licenses jailed, William Smith Jr. and James Yates on Friday morning became the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky.

In what was their sixth attempt this summer, Smith and Yates pressed through a throng of reporters and picked up the marriage license they’d been seeking since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June.

William Smith Jr. and James "Jim" Yates were the first couple to receive their same-sex marriage license from a deputy clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky. The license was issued one day after clerk Kim Davis was remanded into custody for failing to issue licenses following a Supreme Court order.

William Smith Jr. and James “Jim” Yates

“We’re just really … happy right now to finally get married and have it recognized here,” Yates, who proposed to Smith this summer after a nine-year relationship, said shortly before getting the license.

County Clerk Kim Davis had refused to give licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court decision on grounds that issuing the licenses would violate her Christian convictions against same-sex marriage.

But a federal judge ordered her to jail Thursday, ruling that she was in contempt of court for refusing to issue the licenses and not allowing her deputies to distribute them for her.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning said Davis would remain behind bars until she complies. Five of her deputies agreed Thursday to issue marriage licenses in her absence, allowing Smith and Yates — and any other couple — to pick theirs up Friday.

Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, said Friday that the licenses that were handed out Friday are void and “not worth paper that they are written on,” though it’s not clear what that means. At least three gay couples received licenses in Rowan County from her deputies on Friday.

Staver says Davis will appeal the contempt order. He says he met with Davis in jail and she is in very good spirits. He says he doesn’t know how long she will be jailed, but she has no intention of resigning and she will not violate her conscience. He also has said his client would issue licenses if her name and title were not on them.

Davis’ husband, Joe, told reporters Friday that his wife was willing to stay in jail until that proposed compromise happened.

“As long as it takes,” Joe Davis said. “Hopefully (Kentucky Gov. Steve) Beshear will have the guts to do his job.”

The state Legislature could pass a law removing clerks’ names from the licenses, but it won’t be in session until January.

Beshear said this week he won’t call lawmakers to come back early for a special session to deal with the issue, adding that to do so would cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money.”

Supporters held signs and flags outside federal court before Kim Davis appeared on a contempt of court hearing after she refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Supporters held signs and flags outside federal court before Kim Davis appeared on a contempt of court hearing after she refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

In court papers, attorneys for Davis argued that she is unable to comply with the court orders because issuing same-sex marriage licenses “irreparably and irreversibly violates her conscience.”

But American Civil Liberties Union attorneys contended that Davis has no legal basis to avoid performing her duties as a government clerk.

And a federal prosecutor said it was time for Davis and her county to comply.

“Government officials are free to disagree with the law, but not disobey it,” U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey said in a statement. “The County Clerk has presented her position through the federal court system, all of the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is time for the Clerk and the County to follow the law.”

Bunning said he, too, was religious, but he explained that when he took his oath to become a judge, that oath trumped his personal beliefs, CNN affiliate WKYT-TV reported.

“Her good faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” Bunning said.

Also, some scoff at the clerk, suggesting she’s a hypocrite because she’s been divorced three times.

Davis said she’s a different person since becoming a Christian 4½ years ago.

“I am not perfect,” she said in a statement. “No one is. But I am forgiven.”