Battle to marry in Kentucky: 6 couples, gay and straight, one purpose

Surrounded by the media, David Moore, center in dark shirt, and his partner David Ermold attempt to apply for a marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., on Sept. 1, 2015. They were turned away.

Surrounded by the media, David Moore, center in dark shirt, and his partner David Ermold attempt to apply for a marriage license at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., on Sept. 1, 2015. They were turned away.

(Timothy D. Easley / Associated Press)

Six couples -- four gay couples and two straight couples -- have sued a county clerk in Kentucky for refusing to issue marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned bans on same-sex marriage nationwide.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis objects to same-sex marriage for religious reasons. She has said the couples could drive to a nearby county to get a marriage license. But the couples all say they want to get married in the county where they live, work and pay taxes. Here is a look at those couples:


David Ermold and David Moore were one of several gay couples who were denied a marriage license in Rowan County after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide.


But they were the only ones with a video camera.

The couple’s video of their attempt to get a marriage license has been viewed millions of times on YouTube. It was a rallying point for gay rights activists across the country and brought national attention to Rowan County and Davis.

Ermold and Moore filed their own lawsuit against Davis. But that lawsuit has been on hold pending the outcome of the first lawsuit filed by April Miller, Karen Roberts and three other couples. Still, after each court ruling, Ermold and Moore have faithfully showed up at the courthouse to get a license. And each time they have been turned away, usually while holding hands.


Aaron Skaggs and Barry Spartman met at a McDonald’s in 1994 through some mutual friends. They got together on March 7, two days after Spartman’s 21st birthday, while on a hike to see Lockegee Rock at Cave Run Lake.

Spartman said the couple has had their ups and downs, but they’ve always celebrated their March 7 anniversary and have been together for 21 years.

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They started making wedding plans the day the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in June. But when they called the Rowan County Clerk’s office to ask what they would need to get a marriage license, a deputy clerk told them: “Don’t bother coming down here.”

Spartman said they have put their wedding plans on hold until they can get a marriage license. He said it is essential for them to get married in Rowan County because that is where they have made their home together.


April Miller and Karen Roberts worked together in Mississippi and became great friends. They were both married at the time, and when Roberts moved away they realized their relationship was more than a friendship. They divorced their husbands and moved to Texas together with their daughter in 2004.

Miller and Roberts moved to Morehead in 2006. While touring Australia later that year, they climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and vowed they would get married. They decided not to get married in another state because they knew it would not be recognized in Kentucky.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, Miller and Roberts decided they would wed in July. They had heard that Davis was not issuing marriage licenses but decided to try anyway. They left the courthouse angry and soon joined three other couples who sued Davis.


James Yates and Will Smith have been together since March 2006. They tried to get married in Rowan County in July but were among several who were turned away.

They watched as four other couples sued Davis and the case crept its way through the courts. Yates and Smith went back to the courthouse after U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to issue the marriage licenses, only to be denied a second time.

That’s when they filed their own lawsuit.


Shantel Burke and Stephen Napier met through mutual friends, and she agreed to have lunch with him after several requests. Now they start every day with coffee in bed.

The couple has been together since January 2013, and they have a daughter together. They’re not gay, but they were inspired to get married after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June because “we want anyone who wants to be married to be able to do so.”

But Burke and Napier did not count on Davis not issuing marriage licenses.

Napier is a disabled Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Burke does private care for the elderly. Together they live with Burke’s 86-year-old grandmother.


Jody Fernandez wanted to marry Kevin Holloway on July 1, her father’s 81st birthday. Instead, they were turned away at the Rowan County Courthouse.

Fernandez and Holloway are straight. But their decision to get married came just days after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. They later joined a lawsuit with two gay couples and one other straight couple in an attempt to force Davis to issue the licenses.

The couple met in 2005 while they lived in Florida. Fernandez got a job in Morehead in 2008, and Holloway moved with her to help her pay rent. Eventually, they became a couple and wanted to formalize their relationship.

Holloway has been recovering from a liver transplant in 2011 and trying to start a business. The couple is actively involved in animal rescue and have 14 dogs and cats in addition to fostering dogs from the local animal shelter until someone adopts them permanently.


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