Kim Davis went to jail for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. President Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest told us: “No one is above the law, That applies to the president of the United States and that applies to the county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky as well.”
Now wait a minute. We’ve just seen in the case of United States v. Flaherty that there are some people who are above the law. The law of Massachusetts is you cannot secretly record another person’s conversation (there are exceptions not relevant here) but when Massachusetts state police violated that law they justified it by having a federal prosecutor say that at the time they violated it they were not violating it because they were federal agents and federal agents are not bound by Massachusetts laws. They take our pay, wear our uniform, but are above our laws.
So maybe I misunderstood Josh when he said that. He means no one is above the federal law. But we know that is also untrue. Take the case of John Morris who admitted that he took money from Whitey Bulger and Steven Flemmi to tip them off about wiretaps and other investigations against them. He was above the law since he decided to cooperate with the federal prosecutors to save his pension so he got away with his crimes. There was no federal judge telling him he had to be punished.
The clerk Kim Davis was told by Judge David L. Bunning who ordered her to issue marriage certificates that “The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order. If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.” As you must know Ms Davis said her religious belief prevents her from issuing these certificates so the judge is saying that if “I order you to do something against your religious beliefs and you refuse then I will send you to jail.”
Those supporting the judge say Ms Davis if she wants to adhere to her religious beliefs she much give up her job. Wow, that’s a pretty tough standard I think. She was elected to the position which she must have put some effort into getting. Now some guy in robes comes along and tells her she must violate her conscience or give up her job That seems a pretty harsh penalty on a person.
How does it square with the Constitutional provision: Article VI, paragraph 3 that states that: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. . . . “ Isn’t the judge imposing on whoever holds the office of clerk of Rowan County a religious test? Isn’t he and every other judge who acts like him saying: “you cannot hold a political office if your religion makes you unable to follow what we say the law is?”
Despite what Josh says the law is not the law. The law is what the judges say it is. At any minute it can change; in fact, it just changed this year to suggest that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. We are left with a situation that reminds me of a hold up where the armed crook sticks a gun in your ribs and says “your money or your life” Here the judge is sticking freedom in Ms Davis’s ribs and saying, “your job or your conscience.” It never should have come down to this.
There are 120 counties in Kentucky. I assume in almost all same-sex marriage licenses are being issued. It would seem that being the case the judge would direct the people seeking the license in Rowan County to go to a neighboring county. I know some would scream at that minor inconvenience but it would have avoided this predicament.
Even better the judge could authorize another person to issue those licenses. After all judges have put people in charge of school departments, police forces, and other huge entities so it would seem just as easy to designate another person to do what Ms Davis said her conscience forbids her from doing.
I’m just suggesting there are ways to solve the problem rather than having a person violate her conscience or lose her job. It is too bad the judge cannot be more open-minded and accept Ms Davis’s beliefs and work around them. I don’t believe that those who are seeking same-sex marriages are demanding that her name be on their license; rather all they want is a license.
I do get the feeling though that some people want to force Ms Davis to suffer for her beliefs that marriage is between man and a woman, a belief universally held by all government entities in the United States as recently as twenty-five years ago. That is some thing that should be avoided. It is easy to change the law; insisting that along with it one must change their beliefs is not right.
We ought to be mighty careful about situations like these. We must come up with workable solutions that preserve the constitutional right to a same-sex marriage while recognizing some people have strongly felt religious beliefs those marriages are wrong and they cannot in any way show an approval of them. It seems to me it is so easy to accommodate all involved in these matters that we should strive for that outcome rather than having people jailed for their beliefs.