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Why Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Won't Issue Marriage Licenses To Same-Sex Couples


Let's listen to some of the conversation in Eastern Kentucky. We're going to do that on the day that a county clerk from Eastern Kentucky is due in federal court. Kim Davis has been refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She's defied the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court, citing as her reason the authority of God. That's why she's been ordered to federal court today, where she could be found in contempt or fined or even jailed. So let's listen to what Kentuckians are saying, starting with people who have confronted Kim Davis. Here's Kentucky Public Radio's Ryland Barton.

RYLAND BARTON, BYLINE: This week, Kim Davis had plenty of interactions with the public, and they go like this.

KIM DAVIS: You can have a seat over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The United States Supreme Court has ordered you to do your job.

DAVIS: But you need to go ahead and just step away from counter.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I'm not stepping away from this counter until we get our marriage license.

DAVIS: You can stand right here in front of this counter because there's nobody here working today.

BARTON: Davis spends much of the day with her office door shut and the blinds down, avoiding people and the media spotlight. The 49-year-old Democrat was elected to this post in November. She replaced her mother, Jean Bailey, who served as county clerk for 37 years. Davis hasn't issued marriage licenses to anyone since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June. Since then, protestors and couples who want to get married in their home county have hounded her. Flavis McKinney is a retired sawmill worker. He says he's known Davis for nearly 30 years, and he thinks she's doing a great job.

FLAVIS MCKINNEY: I have no complaint, and I don't think too many other think everything has. Everything was going smooth till this gay marriage thing come in.

BARTON: McKinney says he prays with Davis in her office every few days. He's one of many religious supporters celebrating her stand. They applaud Davis' evangelical conviction to uphold her beliefs despite repeated rulings from federal courts that her personal views can't get in the way of her official duties. McKinney says the legalization of same-sex marriage is a sign of the end times.

MCKINNEY: She told me before she was elected. It was, you know, passing in other states and stuff. She said, I can't do it if, you know, she was elected to office, if it come to Kentucky. She said, I just can't do it, being the will of God.

BARTON: Davis declined to be interviewed, but this week, when the Supreme Court refused to hear her grievances, Davis doubled down. She released a statement that said she never imagined she would be asked to violate a central teaching of scripture regarding marriage. Her critics point out despite her moral posturing, she's violated principles of her own religion, Apostolic Christianity, by getting divorced three times. Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz tried to get a marriage license yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Unintelligible).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You been married four times - three divorcees.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Three divorces.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We've been together 20 years, but our love is not equal to yours?

BARTON: Davis was first married in 1984 and then in 1996, 2007 and 2009. The second and last of those marriages were to the same man - her present husband, Joe Davis. Jack Carpenter lives next to a house the Davises rent out to a member of their church. He says he was disgusted when Davis' personal life was used against her.

JACK CARPENTER: Where they're bringing how many times she's been married into it now - you know, what's that got to do with anything? You know, I mean, I don't know. It's just - it's crazy. You know, here we are, this little, small town. We're on national news.

BARTON: Carpenter says Davis is a, quote, "super, super nice lady." Even though he doesn't agree with her views, he feels sorry for her.

CARPENTER: It's actually what she believes. She's not doing it for publicity or any crazy stunt. It's - that's what's in her heart.

BARTON: Carpenter says he can't imagine Davis backing down, and she's given no sign that she will. For NPR News, I'm Ryland Barton in Morehead, Ky. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for the Kentucky Public Radio Network, a group of public radio stations including WKU Public Radio. A native of Lexington, Ryland has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.

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