When last we left Ms. Davis the appeals court had denied her request to stay a federal district judge's order to begin issuing marriage licenses in accordance with state and federal law - meaning to both heterosexual and same sex couples. Her legal team asked for an emergency ruling from the Supreme Court on the matter but were turned down without comment. The district judge reaffirmed his ruling and ordered her to begin complying with the law.
So far Ms. Davis continues to refuse to issue any marriage licenses. She and her office have been ordered to appear in court on Thursday, September 3rd. The ACLU which brought the original lawsuit is asking only for fines, not jail time for contempt of court. The county attorney was asked to take action against Ms. Davis for refusing to perform her duties. He has refused to get involved citing a conflict of interest since his office is involved in other litigation regarding Ms. Davis, and has punted the case to the Kentucky state attorney general, who happens to be a Democratic candidate for governor.
Ms. Davis, riffing from the old Hebrew National advertising slogan, claims to answer to a higher authority than the Supreme Court or the state of Kentucky. You know, The Big Guy himself. So since it is her sincere religious belief that He does not countenance same sex marriage, she refuses to play any role in it. Though in reality she is really only being asked to attest that a couple meets the legal requirements to marry in the state of Kentucky. She is not asked to pass judgment on whether or not the intended union meets the requirements of any particular religion, including her own.
Which brings me to my latest thoughts on the subject.
What if a county clerk happens to be a devout Catholic? I mean old school. Follows all the precepts from the Vatican, the bishop of his or her diocese, etc. Now full disclosure - I am not a Catholic. Nor have I ever played one on TV. However, I am married to a Catholic, and both our sons were raised and confirmed in the Catholic Church. When my wife and I go to church it is to a Catholic Mass. So if only through osmosis I feel I've picked up a little regarding Catholic teaching.
If I understand correctly, the Catholic Church does not believe in divorce. If someone is married in a ceremony that the Church would recognize, and that person then divorces, and that same person is then engaged and wishes to marry someone else, they cannot be married in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church would not recognize the second marriage as it would not accept the dissolution of the first marriage.
So, following the logic of the Rowan County Clerk and her supporters of "religious freedom", what is to prevent a county clerk, who is an extremely devout Catholic, from refusing to issue a marriage license to a divorcee who is ready to try again? According to the clerk's religious beliefs God does not approve or accept the second marriage. Could the Catholic county clerk cite a higher authority and refuse to issue licenses as well? The clerk presumably would not recognize the second, third and fourth marriages of Kim Davis as being legitimate in the eyes of his/her church.
Some might argue that a Catholic holding such a drastic viewpoint regarding divorce would be an exception in today's world. But just because divorce does not carry the same sting for many conservative religious people as same sex marriage might currently, does not negate the basic principle in play here. And all it takes is one person with an extreme viewpoint in a position of authority to make some other people's lives miserable.
I think most reasonable people would disagree with the clerk in this example and insist he or she put their personal religious beliefs aside and simply follow the law and do their job. That doesn't change their personal belief or that of their Church. The law recognizes the second marriage of the divorcee. That is all you as clerk are signing off on. It doesn't mean the Catholic Church needs to recognize the second marriage or that you personally approve. And if the clerk in good conscience feels even that is too much to bear, that they cannot fulfill their secular job duties and stay true to their religious beliefs, then do the decent thing and resign.
As for the continuing tale of Kim Davis, as they say, stay tuned.
My own prediction is that the story will play out in the following way: Ms. Davis will be found in contempt of court and either fined or sent to jail for continuing to defy the court order; she becomes an instant martyr to the cause of religious bigots; Go Fund Me accounts start up for her; and once enough money has been raised to take care of her for life (and also presumably husband number four), she resigns.