Same-sex couples were turned away again from the Rowan County courthouse Thursday as County Clerk Kim Davis formally asked a judge to delay his order requiring her to resume issuing marriage licenses. The judge's decision is not expected until early next week, leaving the county of 23,655 people in legal limbo.
David Moore and David Ermold of Rowan County were refused a marriage license Thursday morning by Deputy County Clerk Nathan Davis, who is Kim Davis' son. Kim Davis was not in the office, Moore was told.
"I feel disappointed, I'm still frustrated, I'm angry," Moore said during a phone interview later. "It's been a month now, and it's not just about us — no one in our county can get married. There seems to be no way to remove her from office, so I'm not sure what to do at this point."
Rowan County Judge-Executive Walter Blevins said he knew of at least one other couple seeking a license that was turned away by the clerk's office.
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Kim Davis — a Democrat elected in November to a four-year term — filed a motion Thursday asking U.S. District Judge David Bunning to stay a preliminary injunction that he issued late Wednesday at the request of four Rowan County couples who are suing her for marriage licenses.
Moore and Ermold have filed a separate lawsuit against Davis that was folded into the decision issued by Bunning on Wednesday. Davis first turned them away last month, an encounter they captured in a video viewed more than 1.7 million times on Youtube. The men also filmed their visit to the county clerk's office Thursday.
In his order Wednesday, Bunning told Davis that she must issue marriage licenses despite her religious objections to the U.S. Supreme Court's June 26 decision legalizing gay marriage. Bunning said Davis was entitled to her private religious objections to same-sex marriage. But as a government official, she is obliged to follow the law and obey the Supreme Court's decision, he said.
Davis immediately appealed Bunning's order to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Her lawyers told Bunning on Thursday that Davis would be harmed if she had to give marriage licenses to gay couples while her appeal was pending.
A marriage license issued to a same-sex couple "substantially and irreparably burdens (Davis') conscience and religious freedom because it represents endorsement of, and participation in, a proposed union that is not marriage according to her sincere and deeply held religious convictions," one of Davis' attorneys, Jonathan Christman, wrote in Thursday's request for a stay.
"That searing act of validation would forever echo in her conscience — and, if it happened, there is no absolution or correction that any earthly court can provide to rectify it," Christman wrote. "If she is forced to authorize and approve a same-sex marriage license, no one and no court can unring that bell."
Davis' request kicked off another round of paperwork in U.S. District Court. The couples filed a response opposing her request; Bunning gave Davis until the close of business Friday to respond to the couples' response.
In the meantime, nobody is getting a marriage license in Rowan County. On Thursday, two couples, including Moore and Ermold, asked Blevins — the judge-executive — to issue them a marriage license, which the law allows him to do in the clerk's absence. But Blevins said that since there are six deputy clerks, he did not think Davis was "absent."
In his order Wednesday, Bunning said it was not a "viable option" for Blevins to start issuing marriage licenses.
State law "only authorizes him to issue marriage licenses when Davis is unable to do so; it does not permit him to assume responsibility for duties that Davis does not wish to perform," Bunning wrote. "Such an arrangement not only has the potential to create tension between the next judge-executive and county clerk, it sets the stage for further manipulation of statutorily defined duties."