ROWAN COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT/AP) - At least four same-sex couples who went to the Rowan County Clerk's Office seeking a marriage license were turned away Thursday, just a day after a federal judge ordered the clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses.
But Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who is at the center of a federal lawsuit because she has refused to issue marriage licenses, wasn't even at work. Workers in Davis' office told WKYT that she is on a scheduled vacation.
Davis has argued that her Christian beliefs prevent her from issuing licenses to same-sex couples. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled gay marriage bans unconstitutional, Davis stopped issuing licenses to any couple, gay or straight. Five couples sued her, and U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning on Wednesday ordered her to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling on June 26.
On Thursday, deputy clerk Nathan Davis, Kim Davis' son, said the office was advised by attorneys with the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel to continue refusing same-sex couples as it appeals the order that was filed Wednesday. They told David Moore and his partner David Ermold, who showed up as soon as the doors opened, that they were not issuing marriage licenses.
After being turned away by the clerk's office, Moore and Ermold went to the office of Rowan County Judge Executive Walter Blevins to see whether he would issue a marriage license. The couple says he told them he didn't have the required paperwork and that the issue would have to be settled by the courts.
At least four couples were denied licenses as of Thursday afternoon.
Sahara Gentry and Kayla Stamper tried to get a marriage license, but were turned down like other couples before them. Gentry said she came to the clerk's office because she wanted to see the faces of the people being turning down.
A deputy clerk handed Gentry a note with the toll-free phone number for the Liberty Counsel, the Christian law firm representing the clerk.
Liberty Counsel were not available for comment early Thursday because they were in a prayer meeting. When reached later, the attorneys told WKYT they have advised Kim Davis not to issue the marriage licenses because once you cross that line you can't go back.
Moore and Ermold got emotional after they were turned away Thursday morning.
This is not the first time Moore and Ermold, his partner of 17 years, have been denied a marriage license by the Rowan County Clerk's Office. Last month, the couple tried to get a marriage license, but Kim Davis refused to issue it. They videotaped the experience, posted it on YouTube and it eventually went viral.
On Thursday, Ermold expressed his frustration to a group of reporters at the clerk's office. Friends of the couple also videotaped that experience.
"These people are cruel and this is wrong. And that's how it is," Ermold said. "That's the bottom line. She's wrong and these people are cruel to do this to us and that's how I feel."
Ermold said their experience is reflective of how "gay people are treated" and he hopes others can learn from it.
"This is what it's like, this is their experience, this is how it feels," he said. "If nothing comes of this at least I hope other people understand this is wrong. It's just wrong."
Two of the couples -- April Miller and Karen Roberts and Barry Spartman and Aaron Skaggs -- named in the suit against Davis tried to get marriage licenses Thursday morning. They, too, were told that the office was not issuing marriage licenses. Barry Spartman and Jody Fernandez, also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, were there and intended to apply for marriage licenses, but decided not to after they saw Roberts and Miller get denied.
Laura Landenwich, the attorney for couples who have sued Davis' office, said Thursday they are discussing how to proceed. Landenwich says they are considering asking a judge to hold the clerk in contempt, a charge that carries a hefty fine or jail time.
Meanwhile, protestors gathered outside the clerk's office, and say they plan to be there all day.
James Yates and William Smith Jr., one of the gay couples denied a marriage license Thursday, joined the line of marriage equality protesters along the street outside Davis' office.
For weeks, protesters have frequently gathered there, wearing rainbow colors and waving signs reading "Love won" and "Do your job."
Yates says that he's furious over refusals for his marriage license, but that seeing supporters has helped him. He says he knows the issue will be resolved.
"It's just a matter of when," he said.
Wednesday afternoon, Miller's attorneys filed a response to Kim Davis' appeal and her request for a stay of injunction. The attorneys representing the plaintiffs said Davis' requests should be denied. The filing, which was entered into the file Thursday afternoon, says Kim Davis, on the advice of her attorneys, decided to ignore the court's ruling even though the judge has not issued a ruling.
Judge Bunning has not ruled on Davis' stay. He responded with an order requesting written responses from the both the plaintiffs and the defendants. Miller's attorneys have until the close of business Friday; Davis' attorneys have until the close of business on Monday, according to court documents.
David Moore and David Ermold came in for a license this morning and were denied. pic.twitter.com/52NJwD63lP— Victor Puente (@thevictorpuente) August 13, 2015
Group lining the street outside Rowan Co. Courthouse with signs: "Obey the law!" "All Means All," "Clerk not Clergy." pic.twitter.com/wlhKBz7ZQg— Garrett Wymer (@GarrettWKYT) August 13, 2015
Initial denial of marriage license
Second denial of marriage license
Judge's order filed Wednesday
Appeal filed Thursday