Kim Davis, the elected clerk in Kentucky’s Rowan County, refused this morning to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, just hours after the Supreme Court had turned down her request to be excused from issuing them on religious grounds. Asked on whose authority she was turning the couples away, she replied: “Under God’s authority.”
The Kentucky standoff is a dramatic story whose resolution is very much up in the air, and it suggests that in some pockets, at least, resistance to the Supreme Court’s declaration of a Constitutional right to marry may continue.
But if anything, the more important story here is how little of this sort of resistance we’re seeing, which suggests that the continuing cultural shift on gay rights is only continuing — and is swamping whatever backlash has greeted the ruling.
Freedom to Marry, the gay advocacy group, has been closely tracking implementation of the gay marriage ruling in counties across the country, particularly in the south. The group provided me with a rundown of the state of play:
In Alabama, there are 67 counties. 54 counties are issuing licenses to everyone.In Kentucky, there are 120 counties. 118 counties are issuing to everyone.In Tennessee, there are 95 counties. All are issuing licenses.In Mississippi, there 82 counties. All are issuing licenses.There are 64 parishes in Louisiana. All are issuing licenses.In Georgia, there are 159 counties. All are issuing licenses.In Texas, there are 254 counties. All are issuing licenses.
I can’t vouch for the accuracy of these numbers, but Freedom to Marry tells me that they are based on direct calls to the clerks themselves, as well as on reports from organizers on the ground. Also, it is in the interests of the group to draw attention to any counties that aren’t issuing licenses.
Before the Supreme Court ruling, there were 14 states in which gay and lesbian people could not get married. (Thirteen of those had laws against it, while Alabama wasn’t complying with a lower court ruling making gay marriage legal.) Of these 14 states, seven — the ones concentrated in the south — are listed above. In the remaining states — North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan and Ohio — Freedom to Marry says any and all problems have been resolved.
And so in the seven southern states where the backlash might have been expected to be fiercest, only one — Alabama — still has multiple counties that are holding out. One other — Kentucky — has only two remaining counties holding out. One of those counties in Kentucky is the one drawing all the attention today. In the other one, no gay couples have tried to get licenses, Freedom to Marry tells me. All the rest are issuing licenses, the group says.
“Given that the ruling happened only a couple of months ago, things are going exceedingly smoothly,” Marc Solomon, the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, tells me. “This shows that clerks are following the law, whether or not they support the freedom to marry, and irrespective of their religious beliefs.”
It’s true that Alabama remains a trouble spot. But Solomon notes that the counties still holding out are “not the major population centers,” which “just shows how silly the whole thing is.” He adds: “this is a very small temporary blip that will take care of itself.”
Meanwhile, some polls have shown solid majority approval of the Supreme Court ruling, while other polls suggest support for marriage equality is holding steady in the wake of the decision. And conspicuously few Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates are mounting any kind of serious call for continued resistance.
Says Solomon: “I’m expecting that support will hold and even increase as people see what this means — that this really is about committed couples who are getting married.”