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Clerk's stand brings unwanted spotlight

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Rowan County, Ky. Judge Executive Walter “Doc” Blevins talks with James Yates Aug. 13 at the Rowan County Courthouse after Yates and William Smith, Jr. were denied a marriage license at the county clerk's office in Morehead. Photo by John Flavell

Reprinted with permission, The Independent Online, Ashland, Ky.

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@NACoTweets: Rowan County gets hectic after clerk's stand on gay marriage http://bit.ly/1W5BtWk

 

Things are much quieter now that Rowan County, Ky. Clerk Kim Davis is out of jail and her office – if not her – continues to grant marriage licenses to both gay and straight couples. But that wasn’t the case several weeks ago.

Dozens of media outlets had descended on this eastern Kentucky county as its clerk, Kim Davis, defied a judicial order to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

At the county courthouse, people were chanting outside its windows. “It’s been tough on the whole courthouse,” Rowan County, Ky. Judge Executive “Doc” Blevins said. “If they couldn’t get her [Davis] on the phone, they’d call my office or the Sheriff’s Office or even the circuit clerk’s office, where there is also a “Kim,” Kim Tabor to be exact. She was receiving so many phone calls, Blevins said, that she had a T-shirt made that read, ”I’m not that Kim Davis.”

People came to the Morehead State University town from Colorado, Louisiana, North Carolina. A couple came from San Francisco, Blevins said, hoping to get a license in Rowan County. They did.

“We’ve been inundated with press, on TV, the Internet, Facebook. Everybody has their 2 cents to add to it. I guess when there’s a chance to be on national TV, they show up.”

Five of the six deputy clerks in Davis’ office decided to obey the judge’s orders and grant licenses. They gave out eight or nine licenses while she was in jail, according to Blevins.

The one holdout was Davis son, who, following in his mother’s footsteps, was serving as a deputy clerk.

Davis, too, worked as a deputy clerk for her mother, for 28 years. When her mother retired, she ran for the office. Her primary race was a close. She won by 20–30 votes, according to Blevins.  

Shortly after her election, she let Blevins know she didn’t intend to issue any marriage licenses should the state’s stand on same sex marriage lose in the Supreme Court. On June 26 the court ruled that states must recognize and allow same sex marriages. On June 29, Davis declined to issue to either straight or gay couples.

“The county attorney and I went over to her office to encourage her to follow the law, but she said she wouldn’t do it.” Shortly, thereafter, the ACLU sued Davis and Rowan County.

The attention, Blevins said, has painted an unflattering picture of his county.  “It shouldn’t be like this. I try to set the record straight. We’re a wonderful community with wonderful people.”

Two years ago, the Morehead City Council, without any community protest, unanimously approved an anti-discrimination Fairness Ordinance, extending discrimination protections in employment, housing and public accommodations to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

But, when the Supreme Court made same sex marriage the law of the land, “Marriage just struck people,” he said. The community may have felt it was okay for same sex couples to love one another, but maybe they just weren’t supposed to marry one another, he suggested.

When asked how he has been faring in the face of all the attention, Blevins, who served in the Kentucky General Assembly before he ran for county office said, “I’m a rookie judge, but have been in the legislature for 33 years. When you stay in office that long, you learn how to deal with a lot of things.

 

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About Bev Schlotterbeck (Full Bio)

Consulting Editor, County News

As executive editor, Bev manages and directs the editorial and production process for County News, NACo's official bi-weekly membership newspaper. She also oversees the County News website and emailed newsletter, CN Alerts. She has spent many years in the communications field, working as a reporter, editor and public relations director.