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Same-Sex Couples Issued Marriage Licenses In Rowan County, Ky.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The dramatic legal battle that has rocked Morehead, Ky., took a new turn today. Same-sex couples there received marriage licenses. It comes as the county clerk, who is still defying the Supreme Court, remains in jail and vowed to stay there as she plans her appeal. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports it was a day of celebrations and protest.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Even before the sun had peeked from behind the mountains, protesters set up camp in front of the Rowan County clerk's office. One man read from the Bible. Another carried a sign that said he stood with Kim Davis. She's the county clerk who has, since June, refused to hand out licenses in protest of same-sex marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Knowing the judgment of God...

PERALTA: Joe Davis, her husband, says his wife will not change her mind. Freedom of religion trumps equal protection under the law, he says.

JOE DAVIS: We don't hate these people. That's the farthest thing from our hearts. We don't hate nobody. We just want to have the same rights that they have. They're saying, hey, we want - we're going to make you accept us, but they don't want to accept our beliefs. But they want us to accept theirs.

PERALTA: Davis says he talked to his wife in jail, and she's fine, willing to stay as long as it takes. Shortly after the office opened at 8 this morning, the first same-sex couple showed up. James Yates and William Smith had been turned away five times before.

WILLIAM SMITH: Thank you so much.

PERALTA: Today, it only took a few questions, $35.50 and five minutes for a deputy clerk to hand them a marriage license. Tears welled up in their eyes, and Smith had a smile from ear to ear. When they walked outside, the cheers were deafening.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Love has won. Love has won.

PERALTA: Yates says he never wanted Davis in prison. He didn't want her blessing. He just wanted a license. And today, he says, that license sends a message.

JAMES YATES: This means - at least for this area - civil rights are civil rights, and they're not subject to belief.

PERALTA: Protesters lingered long after Yates and Davis left. Penny Sinnet (ph) made a trip to Morehead from a neighboring county to fight what she said was a godly battle.

PENNY SINNET: I think they can rejoice for a season, but there's only pleasures in that first season. God tells me eternity is forever. And what you do in this small gap of your life in this season accounts for where you're going to spend eternity.

PERALTA: The battle, she says, is not over. But as she stood there, April Miller, one of the women who sued the Rowan County clerk, showed up to pick up her marriage license. She says standing up to the protesters and up to Kim Davis is something she had to do.

APRIL MILLER: We're here. We're humans. We deserve the same human civil rights as everybody else in this country.

PERALTA: Like the couple before her, she and her partner, Karen Roberts, walked into the clerk's office and emerged with a license. She took it out of the envelope and held it up high.

MILLER: We got it.

(CHEERING)

MILLER: Finally.

PERALTA: She inspected the document and noticed that Kim Davis' name was nowhere to be found. Late today, Davis' attorney said he and his client believe these licenses are void. They also plan to appeal a federal judge's contempt ruling. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Morehead, Ky. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.