MOREHEAD — Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis continued to withhold marriage licenses from local residents Thursday, a day after a federal appeals court upheld an order telling her to end her protest.
James Yates and William Smith Jr. were turned away by a deputy clerk in Davis' office Thursday morning when they asked for a marriage license. The deputy told the men Davis thinks she can legally withhold marriage licenses until Monday under an order issued this month by U.S. District Judge David Bunning.
Davis has refused to issue marriage licenses since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage June 26. Thursday was the third time Yates and Smith had requested a marriage license from her office, and they were visibly upset.
"Justice delayed is justice denied," Smith said after they left the courthouse.
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"We should be celebrating right now, enjoying our lives together," Smith said. "Instead, we're on nerves, waiting for someone to say we can get a marriage license."
Davis remained inside her personal office behind a closed door and declined to appear or comment.
On Friday, Davis' attorneys expect to file an emergency petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a stay of Bunning's preliminary injunction ordering Davis to resume issuing marriage licenses despite her religious opposition, said Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a religious advocacy group that represents Davis.
On Wednesday, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied Davis' request to stay Bunning's order. But there is some confusion as to whether Davis was in contempt Thursday because Bunning did agree to temporarily delay his injunction until Aug. 31 to give her time to appeal. Davis and her lawyers say that delay remains in effect; the half-dozen local couples suing her and their lawyers say it expired when the appeals court declined to intervene for her.
Bunning did not issue any further instructions Thursday.
Yates said he and Smith would return to the Rowan County courthouse Sept. 1, which is Tuesday, to try a fourth time, but he expects to be rejected again.
"They'll file something else to delay it and they'll make up more dates," Yates said. "They don't like gays and they don't want them to get married, and to stop it, they'll burn the Earth and not let straight people get married either. That's all that matters to them."
The couple, together for 10 years, got engaged in June after the Supreme Court struck down Kentucky's ban on gay marriage and legalized it nationwide.
"We had talked about doing it before," Yates said. "But we wanted to wait until it was recognized here because this is where we live. If it's not recognized at home, then it's almost like it doesn't count."
Also Thursday, the Family Foundation of Kentucky issued a news release saying Casey County Clerk Casey Davis — who also is refusing to issue marriage licenses because of his religious opposition to same-sex marriage — has embarked on a statewide bicycle ride, from Pikeville to Paducah, to show his support for Kim Davis.
The two clerks are not relatives, although Casey Davis said they are related "by religious conviction."
"I cannot let my sister go to jail without my doing something to let others know about her plight," Casey Davis said in the news release.
Some members of the General Assembly have discussed possible legislative responses to the clerks' protest, such as removing clerks' names from marriage license paperwork to make them feel less personally involved, or transferring the authority to issue marriage licenses to a state agency.
But the legislature does not meet until January. Gov. Steve Beshear has said he does not think the issue merits a special session for lawmakers, and he has urged county clerks to comply with the Supreme Court decision.