Wed | Apr 25, 2018

Religious clerks in Kentucky follow law, but see conflict

Published:Wednesday | September 16, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Surrounded by Rowan County Sheriff’s deputies, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis (centre), with her son Nathan Davis standing by her side, makes a statement to the media at the front door of the Rowan County Judicial Center in Morehead, Kentucky, on Monday.


Clerk Mike Johnston prays twice a day, once each morning and once each night, and asks the Lord to understand the decision he made to license same-sex marriage.

"It's still on my heart," said Johnston, whose rural Carter County sits just to the east of Rowan County, where clerk Kim Davis sparked a national furore by refusing to issue marriage licences to gay couples, a decision that landed her in jail.

Johnston is one of Kentucky's 119 other clerks, many of them deeply religious, who watched the Kim Davis saga unfold on national television while trying to reconcile their own faith and their oath of office. Sixteen of them sent pleading letters to the governor noting their own religious objections. But when forced to make a decision, only two have taken a stand as dramatic as Davis and refused to issue licences.

And others said they find the controversy now swirling around their job title humiliating.

"I wish (Davis) would just quit, because she's embarrassing everybody," said Fayette County clerk Don Blevins, whose office serves the state's second-largest city, Lexington.

After the US Supreme Court legalised gay marriage in June, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear ordered clerks across the state to issue licences, launching them along markedly different paths. The clerk in Louisville, Bobbie Holsclaw, issued licences that very day and the mayor greeted happy couples with bottles of champagne.

Blevins, too, had no problem. He supports gay rights and explained his response in seven words: "When the law changes, your job changes."