UPDATE -- 3:05 p.m. ET: A pair of teachers became the third same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky, on Friday, according to the Lexington Courier-Journal newspaper. April Miller, a 54-year-old professor of education at Morehead State University, obtained a license to marry schoolteacher Karen Roberts at the county clerk’s office in Morehead.
The couple has been together 11 years, Miller told local media outlets, and the two were part of the lawsuit against Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk who disobeyed a judge’s order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis, who said gay marriage offends her Christian religious beliefs, was jailed for contempt of court Thursday and one of her deputies began issuing licenses Friday morning.
Karen Roberts and April Miller celebrate as they receive their marriage license in Rowan County, KY pic.twitter.com/zH1hQQih9f
— DCHomos (@DCHomos) September 4, 2015
"We know this is bigger than just us," Miller said in an interview, according to the Courier Journal. "We have a handful of clerks around the country who are not listening to what the law is. This is about the rights of everyone."
More couples were expected at the Rowan County Clerk’s Office Friday afternoon to receive their licenses, according to the American Civil Liberties Union’s Kentucky branch. The “bulk of them” would likely be from Rowan County, an area of more than 23,300 people, said Jordan Palmer, secretary-general of Kentucky Equality Federation, a gay rights group, in an phone interview.
Couples from all over Kentucky can marry in Rowan County if they choose. They must be over 18 years old and at least one party must be a legal state resident, Palmer said. Similar to other states, a marriage license in Kentucky is given to a clergy member, a judge or another approved individual to officiate the union ceremony. Licenses can be obtained in any state county, but are not valid outside of the state and expire after 30 days, according to Kentucky law.
At least two gay couples took a critical step toward tying the knot in Rowan County, Kentucky, Friday, and more were expected to do the same throughout the day, following the jailing of a county official who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Couples walking into the Rowan County Clerk’s Office in Morehead, Kentucky, passed a largely supportive crowd shouting celebratory expressions as well as others who were less supportive, yelling Bible verses opposing homosexuality, according to several local media reports.
With County Clerk Kim Davis in jail for contempt of court after disobeying a judge’s order to issue licenses to gay couples, Deputy Clerk Brian Mason began granting them Friday morning, the Courier-Journal newspaper reported. Davis’ supporters and local clergy who oppose same-sex marriage described the saga as a clear-cut violation of their religious freedoms.
James Yates and William Smith Jr., the first gay couple to obtain a marriage license in Rowan County, appeared only mildly fazed by the scene outside, according to a report by the Lexington Herald-Leader. They paid $35.50 and successfully completed the required paperwork around 8:15 a.m. local time. Yates and Smith's approval effectively ended Rowan County’s halt on marriage licensing in protest of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide June 26.
— Toni Konz (@tkonz) September 4, 2015
Yates and Smith, who said they were “overwhelmed" by the historic moment, have been a couple since 2006. It was the sixth time that they had sought a marriage license, the Courier-Journal reported. The couple was among the complainants who sued the county clerk's office for a marriage license after Davis, an Apostolic Christian, repeatedly turned all couples away because of her stated belief that gay marriage is a violation of God’s law.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis on Aug. 12 to begin issuing marriage licenses, reasoning that her personal religious objections supersede neither the law nor her duty as an elected public official. Davis was jailed Thursday for refusing to comply and was expected to remain there until she agreed to issue the licenses, according to media reports.
Yates said he and his husband did not want to see Davis incarcerated, but understood why it happened. "This means, at least for this area, that civil rights are civil rights," Yates told local media outlets. "We're very happy."
A second gay couple, Tim Long and Michael Long, obtained a marriage license about an hour after Yates and Smith. The Longs have been together for nine years and had a commitment ceremony in 2008, when Michael Long had his last name legally changed, according to the Courier-Journal. They plan to have another ceremony on Sept. 27, their anniversary, the paper reported.
"I just never thought it would happen," Tim Long said. "We waited for years and years and years. And now we're afforded the opportunity to be like everyone else."
The second same-sex couple to get a marriage license in Rowan County: Michael and Timothy Long. pic.twitter.com/zW2wuDySeV
— Dominic Holden (@dominicholden) September 4, 2015
As they filled out their paperwork inside the clerk’s office Friday morning, two anti-gay marriage protesters shouted the word “perverts” at the Longs. The incarcerated Davis’ husband, Joe, who had been speaking to media about his wife’s case, reportedly muttered “disgrace” and walked out of the office after seeing the couple. Tim Long reportedly reacted by saying the protesters' words "don't hurt as bad, because love wins."
The Kentucky branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said other gay couples would be arriving at Rowan County Clerk’s Office to obtain marriage licenses Friday.
Congrats to Will & James! Some of our clients will be get their licenses this a.m. and afternoon. https://t.co/Dou2s8uPpD
— ACLU of Kentucky (@ACLUofKY) September 4, 2015