National Opinions

Dan K. Thomasson: Defiant clerk in Kentucky has no grounds to stand on

Dan K. Thomasson
Dan K. Thomasson TNS

The laws of man and the laws of God don’t always jibe, as we all know. That’s why the Bible makes it clear that it is important to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is his. America was built on that premise, adopting no official religion and leaving religious influence out of the workings of government.

When one accepts the responsibility of carrying out the law as determined by officials chosen under the Constitution failing to do so should be grounds for immediate removal from that office.

The law of the land, as affirmed by the Supreme Court, now holds same-sex marriage as legal in every venue.

One can argue with that, denounce it loudly, and begin to work to amend the Constitution to specifically prohibit it, in accordance with one’s religious beliefs. What one can’t do, if holding an official government position responsible for licensing that union, is refuse to do it.

It’s pretty simple, isn’t it?

Well, apparently not for a county clerk in Rowan County, Ky., who steadfastly denied a same-sex couple what she is required by law to give, arguing with them that she obeys God’s law as depicted in the scriptures and interpreted by her Christian fundamentalism. She has become a cause celebre among at least a handful of other local officials who refuse to understand that they haven’t a leg to stand on in refusing to obey the law.

It isn’t difficult to imagine the kind of chaos that would ensue from an official posture that allows local elected officials the freedom to choose what laws to enforce – who should be granted a license based on whether it offends the grantor.

Lawyers for the clerk, Kim Davis, filed a petition with the high court, arguing that “this is a matter of first impression, with far-reaching implications across the country for religious liberty.” Licensing gay and lesbian marriages, Davis contended, was a “searing act of validation” that would “forever echo in her conscience.” She just couldn’t affix her name to the paper.

Then don’t, Ms. Davis, but don’t expect to continue in your job.

It is no surprise that the high court turned down her application. It could do nothing else under the circumstances, having just decided that there was no constitutional basis for telling lawful citizens how to live in this respect.

Before asking the high court to turn around on itself, Davis had been ruled against at the Federal District Court level, and then a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did the same, leaving her as far out on the legal limb as she can go.

On Thursday, she was sent to jail for disobeying a court order. She was released Tuesday.

There is an entire body of religious thought that believes laws that protect all the citizens shouldn’t, and that pharmacists and others who need official certification to operate can pick and chose what medicines to dispense based on these dictums, most particularly certain contraceptives that prevent and end pregnancies. This includes even legitimate prescriptions from a licensed medical practitioner. Should this be permitted because the pharmacist is anti-abortion?

It is difficult to imagine that Davis’ stand is the final volley in the war on same-sex marriage. In certain areas in the nation, where a particular brand of deeply fundamental religion is followed, diehards can be expected to try and change the political landscape to favor undoing the court’s ruling. Similar forces have so far failed in similar attempts, such as shutting down legal abortions by repealing the court’s Roe V. Wade decision.

Gay marriage opponents’ only hope is to either change the balance of the court by electing a president who would nominate another conservative or to amend the Constitution, a long and difficult process.

Until then, however, there is no room left for the Davises of the country to defy what Caesar has handed down. They have no choice but to follow the law or resign.