U.S. Supreme Court Rules that KY Court Clerk Must Issue Marriage Licenses to All
The Supreme Court of the United States tonight ruled that county clerks must give marriage licenses to all, regardless of their own personal religious convictions.
(Kim) Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses in the days after the landmark decision. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her, arguing that she must fulfill her duties as an elected official despite her personal religious faith. A federal judge ordered her to issue the licenses, and an appeals court upheld that decision. Her lawyers with the Liberty Counsel filed a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court on Friday, asking that they grant her “asylum for her conscience.”
Justice Elena Kagan, who oversees the 6th district, referred Davis’ request to the full court, which denied the stay without comment. Kagan joined the majority in June when the court legalized gay marriage across the nation.
Meanwhile, a couple that had been turned away went to Rowan County Attorney Cecil Watkins to ask that she be charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor defined by state law as a public official who “refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.” The crime is punishable by up to a year in jail.
I’m not at all surprised that the Supreme Court upheld its own, earlier ruling. But apparently, Kim Davis, County Clerk of Rowan County in Kentucky, did not think that was going to happen — else, she’d not have taken the position she has thus far.
See, there’s a fundamental issue going on here — but it’s not the issue Ms. Davis thinks.
If you are a duly elected clerk of a county, you are being paid to do your job. And part of your job is to give out marriage licenses.
You can’t refuse to give out marriage licenses, citing religious convictions, after the Supreme Court has already ruled that civil courts must allow GLBT couples to marry.
I realize Ms. Davis is not the only court clerk in the United States who’s thus far refused to do her duty. And I also realize she may well have legitimate religious convictions that don’t allow her to perform this part of her job. And refusing to give out any licenses — as Ms. Davis did — is not the right answer.
Not if she wants to keep her job.
That said, she had two other choices she never considered.
One was to allow someone else to give out these marriage licenses. There are a number of court clerks here in Wisconsin who’ve done that; they quietly allow someone else to do that part of the job. No one gets upset at this, either — so long as the licenses are given out, and the job is getting done, everyone seems fine with this.
(To my friends in the GLBT community: We can’t change everyone overnight. This ethical side-step is far, far better than what Ms. Davis did, because no one is being denied the right to marry. End aside.)
The second is very simple: Resign.
If Ms. Davis truly does not believe she can give out marriage licenses any more because of her religious convictions, and refuses to give them out to anyone — well, she should leave her job. Because she’s obviously unfit to perform it.
And, I must add, that lawsuit that’s been floated saying she’s not been performing her job seems like a slam dunk from here. (Which is yet another reason she should resign. Because these suits are just going to keep on coming, if she insists on being intransigent.)
Look. The Supreme Court has said that all loving couples, regardless of gender, should be allowed to legally marry. I personally agree with this stance. I think it makes legal, moral, and ethical sense.
Ms. Davis obviously does not. Which would not be a problem in a private individual. We believe in dissent in this country.
In this case, however, Ms. Davis is a county official.
So her choices are very simple. She must either do her job, or resign.
Anything else is completely nonsensical.