Politics & Government

Bluegrass Poll: Kentucky voters say Kim Davis should have to issue same-sex marriage licenses

Despite Kentucky's socially conservative streak, more than half of the state's voters say Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis should have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

According to the latest Bluegrass Poll, 51 percent of respondents said Davis should be required to issue marriage licenses, and 42 percent said she should not. Seven percent said they were not sure.

Support for Davis' stand against same-sex marriage, which has captured the nation's attention and led to a private meeting with Pope Francis, was strongest in her home region, Eastern Kentucky, where 57 percent said she should not have to issue marriage licenses. Opposition was highest in Louisville, where two-thirds of registered voters said she should do her job.

The survey of 866 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. The poll was conducted Sept. 22 to 27 by SurveyUSA and sponsored by the Herald-Leader and WKYT in Lexington, and The Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV in Louisville.

A slim majority of Kentucky voters said Davis should have to issue marriage licenses, but the percentage of people who share that opinion nationally is much higher.

A recent poll from the Washington Post and ABC News found that 63 percent of Americans think Davis should be required to issue marriage licenses, and 33 percent think she shouldn't.

The clerk, who until last week was a registered Democrat, has refused to issue licenses to any couples — gay or straight — since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that state laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

Davis spent five days in jail in Carter County last month after refusing a federal judge's order to issue marriage licenses. She was released only after one of her deputy clerks began issuing licenses without Davis' name on them in her absence.

Davis emerged a hero to many on the religious right; she was greeted by Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, and Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin.

But Kentucky voters are split evenly on whether Bevin's disagreement with the Supreme Court's decision and Democrat Jack Conway's support for the decision will affect their choice for governor.

Thirty-four percent of respondents said Conway's support for the court's ruling makes them "much more" or "somewhat more" likely to support his gubernatorial campaign. Thirty-two percent said Bevin's opposition makes them "much more" or "somewhat more" likely to back the Republican's bid.

More than a quarter of respondents — 27 percent — said the candidates' positions on the ruling will not affect how they will vote, and 6 percent said they were unsure.

Support and opposition to Davis are not entirely based on partisan preferences.

A third of Democrats — 32 percent — said Davis should not be required to issue licenses, compared to 62 percent who said she should. Meanwhile, more than a third of Republicans — 35 percent — said she should be required to issue licenses, while 58 percent said she shouldn't.

That mixed bag is reflected in a breakdown of voters who support Conway or Bevin for governor.

Two-thirds of Bevin's supporters — 67 percent — said Davis should not issue licenses, while 27 percent of the Republican's backers said she should.

Three-quarters of Conway's supporters said Davis should issue licenses, and only 21 percent of his backers said she shouldn't.

There's also a gender divide regarding Davis, who doesn't get nearly as much support from women as she does from men.

Men were evenly divided on whether Davis should issue marriage licenses, with 47 percent saying she should and 47 percent saying she shouldn't. Among women, 55 percent said she should be required to issue the licenses, compared to 38 percent who said she shouldn't.

Previous Bluegrass Polls have consistently shown that more than half of Kentucky voters oppose legalizing same-sex marriage, but that opposition doesn't always convert to support for Davis.

Donna Weatherman, a poll respondent from Adair County who agreed to a follow-up interview, said she is a Republican and a Christian who will vote for Bevin, but Davis "needs to quit her job."

"I pay my 10 percent tithe, plus I'm an active church member, but she was elected to do a job," Weatherman said. "She knew what the responsibilities were before she got the job, and I think this has been a travesty."

Curtis Patrick, a poll respondent from Magoffin County, said same-sex marriage is "against the Bible."

"I think she's been very Christian to stand up for her rights," Patrick said.

Like Davis, Patrick belongs to an Apostolic church, and he said "it's not only a sin for gay people to get married, it's a sin to be gay."

"Just because they are gay doesn't mean I don't love them. ... Just means they need to get right for the Lord," he said.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader