MOREHEAD, Ky. (WKYT) - Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis says she is not going to interfere with her deputies issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but she says she is not authorizing them and questions whether they are valid.
Davis read from a hand-written statement Monday morning, her first day back in the office after a stint in jail for five days for defying a federal judge. She choked up as she was speaking, saying she was torn between obeying her God and following the judge's orders.
"I'm here before you this morning with a seemingly impossible choice," Davis said. "My conscience or my freedom. My conscience or my ability to serve the people that I love,"
Harry Mihet, an attorney representing Davis for Liberty Counsel, said Davis had removed her name, title, and authority from the licenses. He said that satisfied her conscience and, she hoped, the judge.
"Effective immediately, and until an accommodation is provided by those with the authority to provide it, any marriage licenses issued by my office will not be issued or authorized by me. I want the whole world to know, be no mistake about it, that if my deputy clerks who do not have my authorization or the authority...they don't have authority to issue any licenses whatsoever. I love my deputy clerks and I hate that they have been caught in the middle. If any of them feels that they must issue an unauthorized license to avoid being thrown in jail, I understand their tough choice and I will take no action against them. However, any unauthorized license that they issue will not have my name, my title, or my authority on it. Instead, the license will state that they are issued pursuant to a federal court order," Davis said, reading from some paper.
Mihet said this was a good-faith effort on Davis' part to comply with U.S. District Judge David Bunning's order, but she wasn't sure if the licenses would be valid.
"Judge Bunning indicated last week that he was willing to accept altered marriage licenses even though he was not certain of their validity. I too have a grave doubts whether the licenses issued under these conditions are even valid," Davis said.
She also said she still wants the state to allow an accommodation for clerks who say authorizing marriage licenses would violate their religious beliefs.
"I urge Governor Beshear, the legislature, and the court to intervene. They have the authorization and the authority to provide these types of accommodations and there's no reason why they cannot do so. Are we not a big enough, a loving enough, and a tolerant enough state to find a way to accommodate my deeply held religious convictions?" Davis said.
Davis, an Apostolic Christian, stopped issuing licenses after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, in defiance of a series of court orders. She said authorizing same-sex marriage would violate her faith, calling it a "heaven or hell decision".
Bunning held her in contempt and ordered her to jail. In her absence, her deputies have issued at least seven licenses to gay couples.
Late Monday morning, Shannon and Carmen Wampler-Collins came to the courthouse for a license. They said they had been together for 20 years and that Shannon was originally from Rowan County. They live in Lexington now. Supporters and protesters followed the couple into the courthouse.
"Don't let Kim's six days in jail be in vain, clerks. Do not sign that license!" one woman shouted.
The deputy clerk issued the license after spending several minutes on the paperwork.
"It was really surreal. It was really hard to believe it was happening. Just a lot of excitement! just really overjoyed about it," said Carmen Wampler-Collins.
Monday afternoon, Harry Mihet told reporters Liberty Counsel plans to file a state lawsuit against Governor Steve Beshear for not allowing an accommodation for Davis' religious beliefs.
Kim Davis' speech outside the Rowan County Courthouse
Here are Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis' remarks from outside the Rowan County Courthouse on Monday, September 14, 2015.Posted by Sean Moody WKYT on Monday, September 14, 2015
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#KimDavis says the licenses will be issued "pursuant to a federal court order" and will not have her name on them.— Sean Moody (@SeanMoodyWKYT) September 14, 2015
Kim Davis is urging people to maintain peace as emotions run high. Her son, who is deputy clerk, stood by her side during 5 minute statement— Mark Barber (@MarkBarberWKYT) September 14, 2015
Kim Davis says Kentucky's legislature needs to address the state's marriage laws.— Mark Barber (@MarkBarberWKYT) September 14, 2015