Gay marriage is the law of the land, but alas, 52 days after the ruling, there are still places in America where homophobic bigots on the public payroll are saying no in the name of God.
There’s a big test case right now in Kentucky. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, and virtually her entire staff, are refusing to issue gay marriage licenses, on the grounds that doing so would violate their religious beliefs. They’re all on the public dime – courtesy of the taxpayers – and their job is to serve the general public in accordance with the rule of law, but the way they see it, the heterosexual heavenly father trumps the earthly Supreme Court. (It’s the same deal in Alabama, where probate judges issue licenses. Statewide, probate judges in 13 of the 67 counties are defying the high court.)
Four gay couples sued Davis, demanding that she hew to the rule of law. And last Wednesday, U. S. District Court Judge David Bunning ordered her to get with the program:
[Article VI of the U.S. Constitution] requires all state officials to swear an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution. Davis swore such an oath when she took office on January 1, 2015. However, her actions have not been consistent with her words. Davis has refused to comply with binding legal jurisprudence, and in doing so, she has likely violated the constitutional rights of her constituents….
The State is not asking her to condone same-sex unions on moral or religious grounds, nor is it restricting her from engaging in a variety of religious activities. Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs. She may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible Study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County Jail. She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do.
However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk.
Exactly. Davis took an oath to serve the public. She’s paid by the public. She has no right to cherry-pick which members of the public she deems unworthy of service. She’s free to cloak her bigotry in godly garments – on her own time. But if she can’t behave in accordance with the rule of law, if she finds her duty to the law so intolerable, she should get another job.
Bunning’s federal ruling merely reaffirms that in this country, there is separation of church and state. This is not brain surgery. The Pledge of Allegiance says, “Liberty and justice for all.” It doesn’t say, “Liberty and justice only for those Americans who pass God’s muster, as determined by public officials who claim to know what God wants.”
Or, as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in a landmark gay rights rulings 19 years ago, “Central both to the idea of the rule of law and to our own Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection is the principle that government and each of its parts remain open on impartial terms to all who seek its assistance.”
Besides, playing the God card is a tactic that got old eons ago, when racists used it to justify white supremacy; to cite a random example, Texas declared in its 1861 secession statement that “the servitude of the African race…is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations.” And 100 years later, racist resturant owners – tasked with serving the general public – cited their so-called “religious freedom” while refusing to serve black customers. Lester Maddox, a future governor of Georgia, invoked God when he chased blacks from his cafeteria, brandishing an axe handle.
That tactic looks ridiculous today. As does Kim Davis’ rationale.
And yet, amazingly (OK, not so amazingly), Davis still thinks she can have it both ways – behaving like a bigot, and keeping her job. Last Friday, she was still turning gay couples away, defying the federal court’s smackdown ruling. Her lawyers, who are affiliated with the religious right, plan to appeal the decision. In their view, “Kim Davis did not sign up as a clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses.”
Actually, she signed up as a clerk to serve the general public. If she and the other bitter-enders can’t do the job, leave it.
Meanwhile, on Meet the Press yesterday, Donald Trump was asked about his foreign policy creds. When the aspiring commander-in-chief needs military advice, to whom does he turn?
Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican frontrunner:
“I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great – you know, when you watch your show, and all of the other shows, and you have the generals, and you have certain people you like.”
Ever wonder what happened to Sarah Palin? Turns out, she’s a ventriloquist.