ACLU files lawsuit against Rowan County over clerk's decision to stop issuing marriage licenses

MOREHEAD, Ky. (WKYT)- The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky has filed a lawsuit against Rowan County and its clerk. This week, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses to all couples because of her opposition to same-sex marriage. She told WKYT she is standing by beliefs that run to her core.

"Ms. Davis has the absolute right to believe whatever she wants about God, faith, and religion, but as a government official who swore an oath to uphold the law, she cannot pick and choose who she is going to serve, or which duties her office will perform based on her religious beliefs," said ACLU of Kentucky Cooperating Attorney Laura Landenwich

The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of two same gender and two opposite gender couples. The couples named in the suit are April Miller & Karen Roberts, Shantel Burke & Stephen Napier, Jody Fernandez & Kevin Holloway, and L. Aaron Skaggs & Barry W. Spartman.

"We have been citizens of Rowan County since the beginning of our relationship and love being members of this community. So, it only makes sense that we would want and should be granted our right to be recognized as a loving couple having freedom to marry here at home," said Skaggs.

April Miller and Karen Roberts have been in a relationship for 11 years. They said, after the Supreme Court ruling was made June 26th, they couldn't wait to legally get married. But when they went into the Rowan County Courthouse a few days after the ruling, Davis turned them down.

“She said I’m sorry we’re not issuing any marriage licenses at this time,” Roberts said.

Opposite-gender couple Jody Fernandez and Kevin Holloway also tried to get a marriage license shortly after the ruling was made, and were also turned down by Davis.

“She offered to give us directions to another county but we live in Rowan County. We work in Rowan County. We pay taxes in Rowan County and all of our friends live in Rowan County," Fernandez said.

Miller, Roberts and Fernandez each told WKYT they respect Davis' beliefs, but believe she should separate her beliefs from her duties.

"We totally believe and will fight for her right to have her freedom of religion and her freedom of speech but that can not infringe on our rights," Fernandez said.

"When our laws are updated or changed, government officials have a duty and a responsibility to impartially administer those laws," said ACLU of Kentucky Executive Director Michael Aldridge.

Clerks in Casey and Green counties have also stopped issuing marriage licenses. On Monday, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear's issued the following statement:

"Our county clerks took an oath, as elected officials, to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Kentucky and to provide important duties in their communities. This oath does not dictate what our clerks must believe, but it certainly prescribes how they must act in carrying out their duties as elected officials. Same-sex couples in Kentucky are now entitled to the issuance of a marriage license by every county clerk, based on Friday's ruling by the United States Supreme Court. While there are certainly strongly held views on both sides of this issue, the fact remains that each clerk vowed to uphold the law regardless of his or her personal beliefs. I appreciate the clerks who are fulfilling their duties, issuing licenses to all couples, and I would expect others to execute the duties of their offices as prescribed by law and to issue marriage licenses to all Kentuckians."

Protests took place outside Davis' office on Tuesday and Wednesday because of her decision. The second day several people supporting Davis showed up. Davis says even if the governor asks her to start signing marriage licenses she won't. She says she will stand up for what she believes in, even if it costs her job.

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