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Kentucky Clerk's Office Issues Same-Sex Marriage License

Eyder is reporting today from Morehouse, Ky.

In what was an emotional and contentious scene at the Rowan County, Ky., Courthouse this morning, one dramatic legal standoff came to an end when a gay couple was issued a marriage license.

James Yates and William Smith, who had tried this five times before, arrived at the courthouse just as the sun started peeking out from under the mountains on the horizon.

They walked past protesters — some condemning them and some cheering them — and entered the clerk's office.

Kim Davis, the county clerk who had stood in their way those five previous attempts, was in jail. She was held in contempt by a federal judge Thursday for refusing to hand out marriage licenses in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court. So early Friday, Yates and Smith walked up to Deputy Clerk Brian Mason.

Mason was all business. He checked their licenses, asked them if they were related, took their $35 and, in about five minutes, handed them an envelope and said, "Congratulations."

Yates and Smith had become the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license from Rowan County.

They exited to chants of "Love has won. Love has won."

"I don't want her in jail," Yates said of Davis. "No one wanted her in jail. We just wanted the licenses given out. This isn't a blessing. It's an official license."

He grew emotional.

"This means, at least for this area, civil rights are civil rights and they're not subject to beliefs."

Davis' husband, Joe Davis, was also outside the courthouse with a group of protesters who called this a moral fight.

"We don't hate these people. That's the furthest thing from our hearts," he said. "We don't hate nobody. We just want to have the same rights that they have. They're saying, 'Hey we're gonna make you accept us.' But they don't want to accept our beliefs. But they want us to accept theirs."

There is still some question about the legality of the marriage licenses handed out today, because they don't bear Davis' signature.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.