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Religious Tolerance logo

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage (aka gay
marriage) across the U.S. in its ruling of The Obergefell v. Hodges
case from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee.

Part 61: 2015-SEP-09:
Current status of gay marriages in U.S. (Cont'd).
Jonathan Davis' comments on religious freedom.
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We use the term "gay marriage."to represent the marriage of two persons of
the same sex. We prefer "Same-sex marriage," a more inclusive term that
includes spouses with a bisexual sexual orientation, but it would make this web
site harder to find because most search engines cannot handle synonyms.
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.
"LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2015-SEP-09: Current status of gay marriage licenses in U.S. states and territories (Continued):

  • Kentucky:

    Kay Schwartz is the clerk in Whitley County. She has decided to issue marriage licenses only to opposite-sex couples, However, no same-sex couples have tested her resolve by requesting a license to date.

Casey Davis is the clerk of Casey County in south-central Kentucky. He is not related to Kim Davis of Rowan County who has generated so much publicity in recent weeks. He has stopped issuing marriage licenses entirely. In a demonstration of support for Kim Davis, he has peddled across the state on a bicycle.

There are probably a few other Kentucky states where county clerks would refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples but have not yet been asked.

Kim Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, was sent to jail for contempt of court and recently released from jail. For now, five of the six deputy clerks are routinely issuing marriage licenses to opposite-sex and same-sex couples. 1

  • Other U.S. counties:

Clerks and/or deputy clerks in some counties who are opposed to issuing such licenses have arranged a formal or informal accommodation with fellow employees. They have some other person in the office issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

  • Native Americans:

The federal government recognizes 566 Native American tribes who license marriages in their territories. They are allowed to follow their own traditions which sometimes include discrimination against gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. Only a few of them have extended marriage to their same-sex couples.

  • American Samoa:

This is only one out of the five U.S. territories where same-sex couples cannot marry. It is in the Pacific Ocean. People born there are considered American nationals but not American citizens. It is unclear whether the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage applies there. The territorial government announced in early July that they were reviewing the situation. Apparently, no decision has been reached yet. It will probably require a same-sex couple to file a lawsuit before action is taken. American Samoans are generally deeply religious and opposed to marriage equality. They have great respect for traditions. It would take a brave same-sex couple to seek a marriage license via the courts. More details.

Other thoughts:

The dozen or so clerks in the U.S. who are still refusing to issue marriage licenses may become the defendants in personal lawsuits at federal court. If such lawsuits proceed, the clerks are almost certainly going to be found guilty and fined a large sum of money. That might provide the impetus to making marriage licenses available to all qualified engaged couples across the U.S.

When the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land on 2015-JUN-26, about 72% of Americans already lived in the District of Columbia or in states where same-sex couples could marry. The High Court decision only affected marriage in about a dozen states. Perhaps it was because the number of states that suddenly attained marriage equality was so small, the negative reaction by religious conservatives has been relatively quiet and short-lived in most areas of the United States.

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2015-SEP-09: Comments on religious freedom by Jonathan Davis in Baptist News:

Jonathan Davis discussed the topic of Kim Davis and religious freedom. He wrote:

"Many Christians feel Kim Davis is a martyr in the struggle for religious liberty concerning gay marriage. On the surface, I agree that religious liberty is at stake. Indeed, it is THE core issue at play, however, opinions diverge from there.

If Davis’s decision and actions were allowed to stand, then based on precedent, government officials could refuse any licenses or services to any citizen based on 'religious convictions.' A veritable Pandora’s Box would open:

  • What if the clerk was Anabaptist or Quaker and refused to issue gun or concealed carry licenses?

  • What if the clerk was Anglican and decided on religious grounds to not give marriage licenses to Protestant ministers? (Which happened regularly in Virginia before the Bill of Rights)

  • What if a health department official was Muslim, and refused to grant licenses or health permits to establishments that sell pork products?

  • What if a clerk refused to assemble a jury for a trial because she disagreed with the law the defendant had [allegedly] violated?

  • What if a clerk, based on religious convictions, decided to throw out all African American ballots after an election? (Circa 1950’s)

  • Or what if a clerk, on religious grounds, refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple? (Like what happened in Virginia in the 1970’s)

EACH of these would be (or has proven) a losing legal battle, and a threat to the religious liberty of us all..." 2

To this list, one might add a hypothetical Roman Catholic clerk who refuses to issue a marriage license to a person who had been married and later divorced, and now wants to remarry without first having receiving an annulment from their church. Richard J. Jenks, in his book "Divorce, Annulments, and the Catholic Church" quoted an earlier estimate that 75% of remarrying Catholics are in this situation. 3 That percentage has probably increased in recent years.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. & Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis Isn't Kentucky's Only Gay Marriage Holdout," ABC News, 2015-SEP-09, at:
  2. Jonathan Davis, "Kim Davis, religious liberty, and why many Christians are getting it wrong," Baptist News, 2015-SEP-09, at:
  3. Richard J. Jenks, "Divorce, Annulments, and the Catholic Church," Page 42. Online at:

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How you may have arrived here:

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-SEP-07
Latest update: 2015-SEP-20
Author: B.A. Robinson
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