Williamsburg, Ky. – The turnout was lopsided Wednesday morning as two competing groups gathered outside the Whitley County Courthouse to either support or protest Whitley County Clerk Kay Schwartz’s decision not to order new marriage license forms that could be issued to same-sex couples wishing to marry.
About 15 people turned out for the Whitley County Marriage Equality Rally to protest Schwartz’s actions compared to about 300 that turned out at a rally supporting her.
After the rally, Schwartz said that she was absolutely overwhelmed and overjoyed by the turnout.
“I am so thankful to God that people are taking a stand for what is right and what they believe in,” she added.
The two rallies took differing approaches.
The rally supporting Schwartz involved various speakers, many of whom were ministers, addressing the crowd in what at times resembled a church service, complete with the singing of Amazing Grace.
They spoke from a podium on the steps of the courthouse. As other supporters held up various signs saying among other things: “We support Kay. U may have been chose for such as time as this” and “Why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah?”
By contrast, the marriage equality supporters marched around the courthouse periodically carrying signs with various messages, including: “Gay people pay taxes too” and “Human rights are not optional.”
Their effort lasted until about 3 p.m. with varying numbers of people taking part.
Even though there were dueling rallies at the courthouse, the two rallies peacefully co-existed.
Interactions between the two groups were mostly civil and few though.
“To willing enter into a sinful lifestyle is a lot different than falling on your knees and praying to God for forgiveness for an act of adultery. To willingly enter into a lifestyle knowing it goes against God that is considered an abomination,” Schwartz supporter Joe Kelly told one marriage equality demonstrator holding a sign, who didn’t address his comments back.
Another Schwartz supporter, Norman Bledsoe, told protesters as they went by that he knows they have a right to demonstrate and while he was against what they stood for and the gay lifestyle he supported their right to be out there protesting.
“We believe that Jesus is the way to heaven but we respect you and your freedom to walk around here and hold up banner,” Bledsoe told protester Cameron Hatfield. “We may not agree with you but we love you because your God’s children just like we are.”
Hatfield responded that he loved him too and the two shook hands before Hatfield started marching again.
Rally support Schwartz
“We are here today in support of Kay Schwartz, a good Christian lady,” said Mt. Ash Baptist Church Billy Carpenter, who was master of ceremonies for the rally supporting Schwartz. “We support the right she stands for and her rights that she ought to be able to stand with.”
Carpenter noted that the rally brought supporters from different counties to support Schwartz’s cause.
Several people spoke at the rally supporting Schwartz, including several ministers and Casey County Clerk Casey Davis, who has refused to issue any marriage licenses since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage on June 26.
“God bless America,” Davis told the crowd. “I am in awe at how much love there is today and how much support that there is for something that seemingly our nation has said we are all wrong about. I am not willing to sit down and say they are right.”
Davis said just because one group has received rights that it hadn’t received before doesn’t mean Christians should lose their rights, including his and Schwartz’s rights to do their jobs without violating their beliefs.
Davis said that he was glad Tuesday night to hear House Speaker Greg Stumbo issue a call for Governor Steve Beshear to convene a special session to address the issuance of gay marriage licenses and laws and regulations surrounding that issue.
“I am so glad to know that people from both sides of the aisle, Republican and Democrat, understand that it is not a party thing. It is something that involves all of us,” Davis noted.
Davis admits that he was disappointed later Tuesday evening to hear Beshear announce that he wouldn’t be calling a special session to address the issue.
Davis and other leaders are planning to meet with Beshear in Frankfort Thursday over the issue, and he asked the audience to pray that Beshear’s mind is changed about the issue of a special session.
“I owe it to my country and my God to fight for what we need to keep,” Davis added.
Schwartz is going to Frankfort Thursday in support of Davis’ meeting with Beshear but won’t actually be attending the meeting itself.
Williamsburg Green Street Church of God Pastor Steve Kirkland said he didn’t believe that the rally was about protesting an issue but rather to support an issue, Christian leadership in the government and Christian values.
“Everybody can be against something but it is time for God’s people to get together and be for something,” Kirkland said.
Kirkland said he is for a government that doesn’t force him to be a Christian, but he is also for a government whose leaders are Christians.
“That is up to you and I to make sure those type of things happen. We will see you at the polls,” Kirkland noted.
David Carr, an official with King of Kings radio station in Somerset, noted that there are clerks on both sides the political aisles, who feel strongly about the issue and have taken a stand against issuing gay marriage licenses, including like Schwartz and Casey Davis, who are Republicans, and Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who is a Democrat. Kim Davis is being sued in federal court for her refusal to issue any marriage licenses.
“This is not a Democratic issue or Republican issue. This is an American issue,” Carr said.
Carr said the greatest thing God has given to us was eternal life and the second greatest thing was life itself.
“I believe the third greatest thing God has given to man that is a tremendous gift is not another man but a woman,” Carr said to the delight of the crowd.
Carr said that Christians don’t bash and cuss out people but they do stand together for what they believe.
“We are here today to stand with one another and for Kay and Casey and Kim,” he added. “If we don’t stand together, we are going to stand by ourselves.”
Jeff Fugate, pastor of Clay’s Mill Baptist Church in Lexington, told the crowd that religious freedom has been under attack for 50 years, such as taking the Bible and prayer out of schools.
“Lawsuits are filed against the primary and basic activity of Christians,” Fugate said. “We have seen in the last 50 years government not only not stand for Christian values and religious liberties but they have gotten involved themselves in the business of sin and vice, such as the promotion of gambling.”
Now the Supreme Court is promoting same sex marriage, he said.
The government can’t force people to have an abortion or drink alcohol or gamble, but Fugate said the government is trying to force people to take part in something that is against a deeply held religious belief.
“We are here today to ask the governor to stand for the First Amendment right of our county clerks and the First Amendment rights of all Kentuckians,” Fugate said.
Schwartz addressed the crowd briefly towards the close of the rally.
“My heart is totally overwhelmed by you standing up for the First Amendment,” Schwartz told the crowd. “I believe in Jesus Christ. I will stand on the word of God as is my right as a Christian. I love you. I appreciate you today. I thank you for coming.”
The rally supporting Schwartz lasted about 45 minutes although many in the crowd lingered on the courthouse lawn socializing for another 45 minutes or so.
Marriage equality rally
Alyssa Monhollen, who was one of the organizers of the marriage equality rally, said she was happy she organized the rally despite the relatively small turnout by like-minded supporters.
Hatfield said he came out to Wednesday’s event because “love doesn’t have a gender.”
“Everybody needs to love and let love,’ Hatfield said. “If they are going to stifle that love then I think we have a right to be out here protesting just like everybody else.”
Hatfield said he was happy with everyone, who turned out to support his cause, and wasn’t disappointed the numbers weren’t larger.
“If this is all we can muster then I am sure we are all pretty happy with that,” he added.
Corbin resident Amber Knight said she attended the marriage equality rally because she is gay and deserves the same rights as everybody else to get married.
“I don’t think any official should defy the national law to say that I don’t deserve it,” Knight said. “This isn’t about religion. This is about love.” (KPA: Corbin/Whitley News Journal)