ASHLAND, Ky. » April Miller and Karen Roberts will return to the Rowan County Courthouse on Friday for the fifth time since June to ask for a marriage license.
Only this time, clerk Kim Davis will not be there to stop them. Instead, she will be sitting in jail, ordered there by a federal judge who found her in contempt for refusing to follow his order that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning offered to release Davis if she promised not to interfere with her employees issuing licenses, but she refused. She told the judge her mother-in-law pleaded with her to go to church from her deathbed four years ago. She did, converting to Christianity and the belief that gay marriage is a sin.
After sending Davis to jail, Bunning threatened each of her six employees with the same fate if they followed her lead and refused to comply with his order. Five of the six deputy clerks told Bunning they would issue the licenses. The sixth clerk, Kim Davis’ son, was the holdout.
At one point, Bunning looked at Davis’ son Nathan and warned him not to interfere with his fellow employees on Friday. The judge said he did not want “any shenanigans,” like the staff closing the office for computer upgrades as they did briefly last week.
“That would show a level of disrespect for the court’s order,” Bunning said. He added: “I’m hoping that cooler heads will prevail.”
Davis’ son sat stoically as the judge questioned the clerks, some of whom were reluctant.
“I don’t really want to, but I will comply with the law,” deputy clerk Melissa Thompson said, weeping while she stood before the packed courtroom. “I’m a preacher’s daughter and this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.”
“I don’t hate anybody,” she added. “None of us do.”
Bunning indicated Kim Davis would remain in jail at least a week, saying he would revisit his decision after the deputy clerks have had time to comply with his order.
Davis said she hopes the Legislature will change Kentucky laws to find some way for her to keep her job while following her conscience. But Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear again refused to call a special session of the legislature on Thursday. State lawmakers will not meet until January.
Davis, an Apostolic Christian, wept during her testimony in federal court Thursday, telling the judge she was “always a good person” but that she gave her heart to the Lord in 2011 and “promised to love Him with all my heart, mind and soul because I wanted to make heaven my home.”
“God’s moral law conflicts with my job duties,” Davis told the judge before she was taken away by a U.S. marshal. “You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul.”
Davis stood and thanked Bunning after he ordered her to jail, pausing briefly to search the crowded courtroom for familiar faces before she was led away.
Miller said she was stunned with the judge’s order. She said she and Roberts will get a license, “show that piece of paper off for a minute or two,” then go home and try to resume a quiet life together, without court appearances and reporters calling at all hours.
They’ll be busy planning a wedding, she said. They need a venue, a caterer and a cake.
“We look forward to (Friday) as a couple,” she said. “It will be a very important day in our lives.”
Associated Press writer Claire Galofaro in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.