FRANKFORT — At a rally Saturday behind the Kentucky Capitol, several thousand people sang hymns, prayed, and praised three county clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
They also heard Republican political candidates, including gubernatorial hopeful Matt Bevin, and legislators criticize Democrats, especially Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democrats' nominee for governor this fall.
A few blocks away on the banks of the Kentucky River, several dozen people reveled in this summer's U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. They also celebrated Frankfort's decision two years ago to adopt a fairness ordinance outlawing discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered.
It was a tale of two different rallies.
At the First Amendment Rally for County Clerks at the Capitol, Kent Ostrander, executive director of The Family Foundation, said the event was not anti-gay or anti-lesbian.
"All living humanity needs God," he said.
The purpose of the rally, said Ostrander, was to support religious liberty and freedom of conscience for Kentucky's county clerks in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision.
He said it was likely the nation's first statewide gathering focusing on such First Amendment rights.
Ostrander reminded the crowd that the Kentucky legislature in 2013 passed a law to prohibit government from infringing on any citizen's religious liberty unless it has a compelling interest.
He said the religious liberty of three county clerks — Kim Davis of Rowan County, Kay Schwartz of Whitley County and Casey Davis of Casey County — is under attack because of their religious conviction that they cannot use their names on a license form to authorize a same-sex marriage.
Ostrander noted that Beshear has told the clerks to do their jobs or quit.
"Governor, please do your job or quit," Ostrander said to loud applause.
During Ostrander's speech, a plane provided by an unnamed sponsor flew over the Capitol grounds with a banner that read "Stand Fast Kim."
Kim Davis, who has been sued by the ACLU of Kentucky for refusing to issue marriage licenses to all couples, thanked the crowd while crying.
She said she was at the rally to praise God and shouted out at least three times, "He is worthy."
Whitley Clerk Schwartz told the crowd that political correctness does not honor everlasting life, and Casey Clerk Davis said Americans need to "put God back in government where He belongs."
Casey Davis was more political than the other two clerks. He told the crowd to "beat Jack Conway and Andy Beshear" at the polls in November. (Andy Beshear, a son of the governor, is the Democrats' candidate for attorney general.)
But Davis said people of different political parties can agree on important subjects. He noted that he is a Republican and Rowan Clerk Davis is Democrat. He said they are not biologically kin but "she's my sister. We are related through the blood of Jesus Christ."
Among state lawmakers speaking at the rally was Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.
Stivers pledged to the crowd that the state Senate next year will help county clerks maintain their religious liberty.
He said Beshear also could immediately call a special legislative session to address those concerns or sign an executive order to keep clerks from having to sign their names to marriage license forms.
Beshear has said he has no plans to call a special session and that the issue should be left up to the clerks and the courts.
Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield of Hopkinsville, who is running against Andy Beshear for attorney general, also called for an executive order from the governor.
He criticized Conway for not appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court a U.S. District judge's ruling that allowed same-sex marriage.
Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, said four of the five U.S. Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriages were appointed by Democratic Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
"What did we expect?" Lee said.
He said it also was sad that some politicians are more concerned about removing the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the Capitol than the removal of God from this country's political systems.
Bevin pledged his support for the religious liberties of all government officials and wondered whether the media would cover the event.
Conway and Andy Beshear were invited to the rally but they did not show up, Ostrander said.
Conway's campaign said he was in Western Kentucky on Saturday. Beshear's campaign said he also was meeting with voters in Western Kentucky.
At the fairness celebration at Ward Oates Amphitheater, Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign in Louisville, said all government officials should uphold the law, and the law now validates same-sex marriage.
Frankfort Mayor Bill May, who successfully pushed for a fairness ordinance in his city, called Frankfort a compassionate and loving city.
The Rev. Scott Rollins of Frankfort's Highland Christian Church said some Christian leaders in his community have "vilified" gays, calling them pedophiles.
He said he recently was talking at a grocery store to a man who was effeminate. After the man left, someone else in the store remarked, "He sure has a lot of sugar in his tank."
"We still have a long way to go," Rollins said. "It's going to take a grandchild or a best friend to change their heart."