Sunday, September 06, 2015

Big papers look at gay-friendly university town riven by clerk's stand against same-sex marriage

Friday in Morehead (Getty Images photo by Ty Wright)
The fight over an elected county clerk's refusal to issue marriage licenses because of her religious belief against same-sex marriage has brought international attention to Morehead and Rowan County, Kentucky, populations 6,800 and 23,700, respectively. Morehead is not a typical Appalachian-foothills county seat; it is the home of Morehead State University, enrollment 11,000, and has a vibrant gay community, and that has made for some lively interactions, including some vigorous protests -- but no physical altercations.

Still, Richard Fausset of The New York Times reports, "People here are confronting a question similar to one being faced elsewhere around the country: Is there a road back to the old politesse and grace that have helped this area manage its town-gown tensions for decades? Or does the bitter clash of worldviews reflect an unraveling of whatever it was that once knit disparate people together?"

Fausset and Kentucky freelancer Jim Higdon, writing for The Washington Post, note that Morehead is one of only eight Kentucky towns with "fairness ordinances" banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It was adopted without public opposition, Fausset quotes the American Civil Liberties Union as saying.

"For years, gay members of the university community and Apostolic Christians have tip-toed around each other," Higdon reports. "But the Supreme Court’s decision in June in favor of same-sex marriage made a collision perhaps inevitable, as the only thing standing in the way of gays who wanted to marry was the signature of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, a member of the Apostolic Church."

The gay community in Morehead is probably the reason that among the three Kentucky clerks who have stopped issuing marriage licenses, Davis is the only one to have been sued (and sent to jail for defying a federal judge's order). "There is no LGBT community to speak of in those other rural areas," Higdon notes. For coverage from The Morehead News, a thrice-weekly, click here.

No comments: