By Nancy Smith
And they call Mississippi backward. Somebody please tell me how a county clerk from Kentucky who swore an oath to execute the law of the land, then refused to do it, gets to keep her job.
Where was Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear after Rowan County Court Clerk Kim Davis, 49, a Democrat elected last year, refused to sign marriage licenses to same-sex couples?
Never mind sending Davis to the slammer for contempt of court. Why didn’t Beshear beat the judge to it and send her home instead — just remove her from office, save taxpayers the money this media circus is costing and spare himself the embarrassment down the road?
That goes for the 57 other clerks — nearly half of the commonwealth of Kentucky’s 120 county clerks — who sent a letter to the governor saying their duties as a clerk are now at odds with their beliefs.
If I were Beshear, I would send them all a letter back, remind them that there are certainly legitimate contexts and arguments to be made for religous freedom but the secular office of a county clerk isn’t one of them. The law of the land isn’t an item on an a la carte menu from which elected officials can pick and choose.
The point is, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriages legal. If these clerks believed issuing marriage licenses for gay couples was going to compromise their convictions, all 57 of them plus Davis should have quit the same day the justices’ decision came down. Even now they can honorably resign their elected positions and seek employment that doesn’t clash with their religious beliefs.
Governors remove elected officials for all kinds of reasons. Certainly Florida Gov. Rick Scott has. I must be missing something, because apparently it’s not as simple as Beshear growing a little backbone.
The law of the land isn’t an item on an a la carte menu from which elected officials can pick and choose.
“There’s no boss there that can say, ‘You’re fired,'” Scott Bauries, a law professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, told a news team at WKYT-Lexington. “We sort of assume that the electoral process will take care of elected officials who refuse to do their job. But that’s a problem if you want to get married and you’re a same-sex couple and you have the right to get married.”
Bauries says those who want to get married would have to seek what is called a writ of mandamus — basically an injunction against the elected officials. That could lead to a court battle that could take months, maybe even years, incurring all kinds of expense for people who are only exercising their right to obtain a legal document.
Davis was just elected. Rowan County is stuck with her for three more years?
I have to admit, if I were governor — having taken an oath of office myself — I would feel honor bound to give every one of these clerk scofflaws an ultimatum: Obey the law or stand down.
There’s a lot of crazy in this story. First, along comes a pair of presidential candidates — Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz — pandering for votes. They fall all over Davis, trying to be first in line for huggy photo ops with the pigtailed celeb, and frankly it’s offensive. You know they know better. Huckabee is a former governor and Cruz clerked for the chief justice of the U.S. They understand the difference between the law and rights under the First Amendment.
In her Sept. 14 column, Kathleen Parker — a conservative — says all of this about Huckabee, Cruz and Davis, and more. “Why would any candidate align himself with the sort of ignorance that prompts someone to carry a sign comparing the U.S. Supreme Court to the Islamic State? Because,” she writes, “stupid sells, apparently.”
Davis has two fundamental choices, as I see it. The first is to issue the licenses. The second is to resign her position if she feels her deeply held religious beliefs won’t allow her to fulfill her public duties.
What worries me is, if we start basing who gets a marriage license on religious grounds, then how many couples would actually qualify? Davis herself has been married four times. In some Christians’ eyes, she wouldn’t get past the priest, let alone the clerk. What about a couple who has lived together? Or a couple of mixed race? What about the couple that includes an unwed mother? There are Christian sects that consider one or all of these people sinners, and to sanction them to marry would be against their deeply held beliefs.
But in the end, it doesn’t matter. This is about a clerk who swore an oath to uphold the law. She claims she can’t do that. A Walmart greeter positon awaits.
I hope Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear can man up and remove Davis from office. The court process moves slowly and only prolongs the circus. This shameless charade doesn’t speak well for Kentucky and shouldn’t go on a day longer.
Nancy Smith is the editor of Sunshine State News. She started her career at the Daily Mirror and The Observer in London before spending 28 years at The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News as managing editor and associate editor. She was president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors in the mid-1990s. Reach her by email here, or follow her on twitter at @NancyLBSmith.
She gets to keep her job because everyone is trying to solve this without an even bigger backlash than what we’ve seen so far. She’s wrong on so many levels and eventually she’ll have to comply with the law, or let others in her office do so. It’ll just take a bit more time and patience. Sanity will prevail, even in Kentucky.
This entire situation played out not because of religious freedom principle, but simply because Kim Davis wanted her 15 minutes of fame. Don’t believe for a second, the kook-aid BS she sold to everyone. You don’t divorce three times and then preach to me about Christian principle. You may insult my interpretation of the Constitution, but don’t insult my intelligence
Nancy N. says
Relying on the electorate to dispose of people like Ms Davis makes the big assumption that the electorate in that area aren’t also bigoted jerks. Why do you think that the Governor won’t step in? There’s no upside for him. He knows what side his bread is buttered on – or more accurately, which side of this issue his voters are on. Relying on elected officials to fix the bigotry of the public that votes for them isn’t going to happen.
Would a Muslim person, refusing licenses on the same grounds if they held the same office as Kim Davis, be able to keep that job for longer than five minutes?
You’re right, Anonymous. A Muslim would have been dragged from office and strung up by righteous Christians. We are, after all, a bigoted Christian nation. Just ask Ben Carson or the Huckster.
Flagler Resident says
I couldn’t agree more with this article. While Ms Davis is spewing her religious beliefs, I wonder how she can justify changing husbands at the drop of a hat. Obviously she hasn’t stayed married more than 10 years to any one man. I think it’s time for President Obama to take a run down to Kentucky and sign each and every one of the marriage licenses that have been issued. Then he can tell Ms Davis “now tell me those license are not legal.”
Samuel L. Bronkowitz says
Answer: for exactly the same reason Rick Scott and Jim Manfre get to keep theirs – they are elected officials. If you want to get rid of them you have to recall them. It’s an unfortunate consequence of what passes for democracy, but if does help a little in that keeps some nepotism out of politics.
Over the line says
News does not consist of personal opinion, and there is way too much personal opinion in this story.
It’s an opinion column by one of our regular columnists.
Enough already says
BECAUSE THE ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE SCARRED TO DEATH TO FIRE HER AND RISK A BACKLASH. THATS WHY THERE LETTING THE FEDERAL GOV’T DONIT FOR THEM.
Kevin Cox says
I have no problem with gay marriage and I agree that if Kim Davis can’t fulfill her duties she should be removed from office. I also believe that if she should go to jail and lose her job then Ed Lee Mayor of San Francisco and the Mayors of other sanctuary cities should suffer the same fate. As stated in your article The law of the land isn’t an item on an a la carte menu from which elected officials can pick and choose. I know that many liberals believe that only the laws liberals believe in should be enforced. I believe if a law is bad then get it repealed if it isn’t repealed then enforce it. The law should not be political.
Our president has been picking and choosing which laws he will enforce for seven years. He goes beyond that by unilaterally making up criteria as to which illegal immigrants will get to stay, which is a power reserved to the Congress via a process known as legislating. There is no outcry from the left or the media until one clerk invokes her right to religious freedom. Now, I would normally agree she should enforce the law and do her job, but until ALL elected officials are forced to do their jobs I will not insist she does her’s.
Very well put Outsider. These are the same people who cheered on the religious left for breaking the laws and “following their conscience” during the civil rights and anti-war era but now term people they disagree with as “religious nuts”. Their hypocrisy is breathtaking.
Nancy N. says
The fact that you don’t see the difference between what Kim Davis is doing and what civil rights and anti-war protesters have historically done is appalling. Engaging in acts of civil disobedience like trying to eat at a lunch counter or staging a sit-in doesn’t deny someone else their basic human rights. It’s one thing to protest as an act of free speech – it’s another thing to deny basic rights under the law to someone else while doing it.
These two examples you gave are vastly different. What right does anyone have to treat people different because of the color of their skin keeping them as property abusing. raping, selling and killing without consequence… and then Jim Crow? This had to do with hatred. Institutional Racism is still in affect. As for the Anti War protests , we have seen what the real historical deal was. People of conscience should aways oppose war for political reasons. War is a last resort and not a tool to dominate other nations. The Pentagon papers and the Johnson Administrations lies doomed many to die just like the Bush Admin. did. As for the cries from the left, Obama came to accept Gay marriage only recently. It’s near impossible to have popular opinions of the time and movements dealing with this particular topic sway religion. “Liberals” have managed this change. But we as liberals have to know when the coin has the same two sides. The sanctity of marriage according to Kim Davis was adhered too by her for times. What was done by her was that she sinned because of lust. This is an example of falling from God’s grace which can be forgiven. Whereas the state of Gay marriage is a perpetual sin according to her Christianity. I’m not in her head. Funny though…the perpetual nature of shacking up amounts to the same thing only it’s called Common Law Marriage. No ceremony.
Samuel L. Bronkowitz says
People that burned their draft cards and refused to serve during the anti-war era were routinely arrested when caught, and kim davis was arrested as well. Unlike the anti-war era, though, we can’t send her into a war zone to unwillingly die in combat or get exposed to agent orange for dodging her duties; instead, she spent a few days in jail for violating a federal order and then went home to her family, alive, without ptsd, with no agent orange exposure.
Nancy N. says
Reagan did the same thing with an immigrant amnesty. And yet he’s revered by the right. I wonder what the difference is….hmm….
O.k., Outsider. Tell us all which laws President Obama picks and chooses.
Actually others have written about this problem. Apparently the Kentucky governor simply does not have the authority to remove an elected official from office. It has to be done by the state legislature using the impeachment process. Good luck with that. So we will all wait for the next election to see how the story ends.
Nancy N. says
But the Governor does have the right to call a special session of the legislature to enable the impeachment process to proceed. And he is refusing to do so.
Outsider NAILs it. We have this in the “news” because it goes against the agenda of the extremist left and our extreme left media. Why don’t they also have a fit over 0bama picking and choosing laws to enforce along with the so called sanctuary Citys that go against the LAW???
proud yankee says
this woman is an adultering multi-marrier. When is she going to be stoned to death?
He who is without SIN cast the first stone !!!
This is all public sector BS!!!
Johnny Taxpayer says
“The law of the land isn’t an item on an a la carte menu from which elected officials can pick and choose.”
Which is correct, but also includes the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I find it somewhat ironic that the author of this “article” wants the Governor of Kentucky to essentially break the law as the remedy to a Clerk breaking the law. The Governor of KY has no ability to “fire” the elected clerk, but apparently that is insignificant to the author, even though she quotes a law professor from KY who states just that, because the democratic process doesn’t move quickly enough for her.
Can elected officials choose which law to break or not?
She gets to keep her job because she is an elected official. She simply can’t be fired and I am sure the author knows this but it’s less dramatic to just tell the truth and make the situation feed into the authors side of the aisle.
Ms. Davis should be removed from office, the legal way if she does not want to perform her duties as an elected official. If she refuses to do her job then stick her back in lock up. She can stay there until her term is over if she refuses to perform her duties as an elected official. We have elected officials who break the law / constitutions all the time. We can’t just “fire them” unfortunately. The need to get voted out or their final term in office has to come about. Thank Allah, God, Buddha, LR Hubbard or whoever or whatever you want to believe in or follow that Mr. Obama’s term is about up. If we could only put him in jail until he decides to follow the constitution we would be much better off.
Edith Campins says
It is appalling that this situation has not been resolved. As for Outsider’s comments….the fact that anyone else may be breaking/ignoring laws doesn’t make Ms. Davi’s behaviour any less wrong.
[Correction:: The commenter below is wrong, and is spreading a misinformed “comparison” that has been discredited. Commenter, with accuracy, context matters. Thanks.–FL].
As soon as you can tell me how Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker was able to keep her job when refusing to marry straight couples. Why dose it seen always ok for the far left to “break the law” but not the right?
The U.S. Constitution established the Supreme Court. It was then established the Supreme Court had the power of Judicial Review which allowed it to declare laws passed by Congress or a State Legislature as unconstitutional. When the Supreme court does this it is NOT making a new law. It does not have that power. Only the Legislative Branch can pass a law.
When the Supreme court declares a law unconstitutional it is simply advising the legislative branch they need to pass a new law that is constitutional as per the Supreme Court Decison. In this case they established a guideline that the Kentucky Legislature must pass a marriage law that is constitutional as per the 14th Amendment. That was almost 90 days ago.
So far the Kentucky Legislature has failed to comply with the Supreme Court decision. So has the States of Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan who were also involved in this case.
Kim Davis is an elected official of a County in Kentucky. She can only be removed from office if the Kentucky Legislature impeaches her for violating Kentucky Law. But before the Kentucky Legislature could impeach her they would have to pass a new law that states gays can be married in the State of Kentucky and that the State of Kentucky recognizes gay marriages performed in other States and she would have to violate it. You cannot impeach a person for enforcing a State Law that at the time was deemed by the State Legislature and the Governor of Kentucky as being constitutional.
Kentucky did not jail Kim Davis the federal government did. If the Kentucky legislature attempts to impeach here citing she is violating federal marriage law her defense will be the federal government cannot pass a marriage law. If they try to impeach her for violating current Kentucky Marriage Laws her defense will be “Those laws are still on the books in Kentucky but the court declared them unconstitutional and the State Legislature has not given her any new constitutional laws to enforce.”
Therefore due to the cowardice of the entire Kentucky state Legislature for right now she is on very solid legal ground. She has a clerk in her office complying with the Supreme Court guidelines. As the Supervising Clerk of that County Office she has the power to delegate that responsibility to that clerk.
The voters of Kentucky voted down gay marriage by an overwhelming majority vote of 75%. Anyone who thinks these Kentucky legislators are going to pass any new laws before the 2016 elections is kidding themselves. They saw that 75% vote and are petrified to replace the 1998 Kentucky law that prohibits gay marriage and that state Kentucky does not recognize gay marriages performed in other States is kidding themselves.
Therefore Kim Davis cannot be impeached and removed from office.
The Governor of the State of Kentucky is democrat Steve Beshear. Since the court decision he has not sent any new legislation as to the marriage laws of Kentucky to his legislature. Nor has he verbally asked the State legislature to take up new marriage laws. Governor Steve Beshar is up for re-election in 2016. He saw that 75% vote against gay marriage also.