Same-sex couples received their marriage licenses Friday morning at the Rowan County clerk's office following a judge's orders for Christian County Clerk Kim Davis to be sent to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June.
Davis cited "God's authority" as the reason she defied the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. One day after Davis was jailed, however, her deputy clerks started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, the first being to William Smith Jr. and James Yates.
Deputy clerk Brian Mason issued the license to the pair and congratulated them, but some of the clerks remain conflicted about the issue. Deputy clerk Melissa Thompson told a packed court Thursday that compromising her religious beliefs is "the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life." Still, U.S. District Judge David Bunning made it clear that any other clerks who refuse could also be found in contempt of court, like Davis.
"God's moral law conflicts with my job duties," Davis said to the judge before being taken away by a U.S. Marshal. "You can't be separated from something that's in your heart and your soul."
Davis defied several court orders to issue marriage licenses. Bunning chose a prison sentence over a fine because he believed Davis, who makes $80,000 per year, would not comply with his order if fined, reported USA Today. The judge also ruled that that Davis will be released from prison once she has agreed to comply with the court order and proceed to issue marriage licenses.
"The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order," Bunning said at the hearing. "If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that's what potentially causes problems."
It seems unlikely that Davis will change her mind. Even when Bunning offered to release her if she allowed her clerks to issue the licenses, she refused.
"I've weighed the cost, and I'm prepared to go to jail, I sure am," she told Fox News Thursday. "This is a fight worth fighting."
Davis has put forth one compromise, though: take her signature off the marriage licenses.
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"She has a very strong conscience and she's just asking for a simple remedy, and that is, remove her name from the certificate and all will be well," her attorney, Matthew Staver, told ABC News. "That simple remedy has simply been ignored by the court and by the governor and that's what should have been done."
"I think it's reprehensible that she's in jail for this when a simple fix could have been easily handled," he added.
Davis' defiance has energized traditional marriage advocates, and even some of the Republican presidential candidates have reached out to her in support.
"She is showing more courage and humility than just about any federal office holder in Washington," former Arkansas Republican Governor Mike Huckabee said in a statement.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said that jailing Davis would only "harden the resolve" of traditional marriage advocates.
"I think it's a real mistake [to jail Davis], and even those on the other side of the issue, I think it sets their movement back," Paul said on CNN.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal both said that Christians should be able to serve in elected office and not have to compromise their conscience. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said that the First Amendment guaranteed Americans' freedom of religion.
"I read that the Constitution is very clear that people have freedom of religion — you have the freedom to practice religious beliefs out there, it's a fundamental right," Walker said on the Laura Ingraham show.
On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Obergefell v. Hodges that state level bans on gay marriage violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Obergefell was the culmination of over a year of judicial rulings that struck down several state constitutional amendments passed by popular referenda.
Since the Supreme Court's decision, many county clerks across the nation have either refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples or resigned from their posts.