SPRINGFIELD, KY. — In Washington County, population 12,000 on a good day, two marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples and the world has not ended. The media and their satellite trucks have not overtaken the courthouse lawn. Federal judges have not imprisoned county officials. Preachers with megaphones have not proclaimed hellfire and damnation to the whole downtown.
No, in Washington County, a rural outpost about 60 miles south of Louisville in the central part of the state, the June ruling from the Supreme Court that granted marriage equality to same-sex couples has passed through like an early summer rain shower, not the deluge that befell Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’s office, some 120 miles to the east.
The reason for the difference appears to be that Washington County Clerk Glenn Black understands the Supreme Court ruling to be “the law of the land.”
“Nobody asked me if I liked it. They just asked me if I was going to do it,” Black said.
Black is a Baptist, and his personal view is that he’s “pretty much against” gay marriage. But Black also understands his public office to be separate from his personal beliefs. “The good Lord is going to make the judgments, not me,” he said.
On the day of the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, Black said he received a phone call asking when he would begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples. He told the caller that he wasn’t sure, that he would have to hear from the governor first.
The caller was Kim Stacy, 58, who lives in a wooded, hilly part of Washington County down at the end of a one-lane road in a cabin she built with her partner, Anne Harrison, 61, a professor at the University of Kentucky. Stacy is a woodworker, cabinet maker, furniture designer and home builder; her work studio is in a separate building next to their home, which they share with three cats.
During the phone call, Stacy told Black that it was “a done deal,” that the governor didn’t have any say in it. The same day, the governor issued a statement saying as much and ordered the Department of Libraries and Archives to issue new licenses that replaced “bride” and “groom” with “Party 1” and “Party 2.”
After that, Black understood it to be the law of the land, and so did everyone in his office.
As for Stacy and Harrison, many of their friends in same-sex relationships had been married out-of-state, but they had always wanted to be married in Kentucky because they are both from there: Harrison is from Louisville, and Stacy is from Hyden, deep in the Appalachian coal fields. They met in Lexington, when Harrison hired Stacy to do woodworking on her house.
The Supreme Court ruling came on a Friday; that Monday about 10 a.m., Stacy and Harrison went to the clerk’s office in Washington County, the same clerk’s office that in 1806 issued a marriage license to Nancy Hanks and Thomas Lincoln, parents of Abraham Lincoln.
“The women behind the counter acted as if it was the most normal thing,” Stacy said, referring to the deputy clerks. Black was out of the office at the time, but that didn’t bother Stacy nor the deputies. As she and her partner filled out the license, the deputies went back to chatting with each other like any ordinary day in the office.
“Good luck to you both,” one of the deputy clerks told them after they finished filling out the license. “But maybe you don’t need my luck. You’ve probably been together a long time.”
“Twenty-eight years,” Stacy told her.
“That’s longer than my husband and I,” the deputy said.
Once the couple returned their marriage license to the clerk’s office, it was printed in the local paper, the Springfield Sun, as a matter of public record. Afterward, Stacy said two people from the community came up to her and said, “I saw your name in the paper,” and “Congratulations.”
“We were a little concerned there would be some backlash,” Stacy said. “And there has not been.”