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Religious Tolerance logo

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage (aka gay
marriage) across the U.S. in its ruling of The Obergefell v. Hodges
case from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee.

Part 53:
2015-AUGUST:
Clerk in Kentucky won't issue marriage licenses.
Lawsuit in federal court. Webmaster's comments.
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We use the term "gay marriage."to represent the marriage of two persons of
the same sex. We prefer "Same-sex marriage," a more inclusive term that
includes spouses with a bisexual sexual orientation, but it would make this web
site harder to find because most search engines cannot handle synonyms.
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.
"LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Kentucky map showing Rowan County2015-AUG-13: A county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky refuses to issue any marriage licenses: (Continued)

Ms. Davis attends the Solid Rock Apostolic Church in Morehead, KY, which is an Apostolic Pentecostal church. She argued in her defense before U.S. District Judge David Bunning that:

  • Her conservative religious beliefs prevented her from authorizing a gay marriage. Judge Bunning rejected this argument, saying that her role was not to authorize marriages. She was only verifying the eligibility of the couple to marry under Kentucky law.

  • There is no need for her to issue licenses to same-sex couples. They could simply drive to an adjacent county and obtain a license there. Judge Bunning responded that some poor couples in the county would find such travel difficult. Also, if she were allowed to refuse same-sex couples, then many other county clerks across the state could make the same argument and cause chaos. Also, since the plaintiff couples live, work, socialize, pay taxes, etc. in Rowan County and since they have a legal right to marry, then why should they be required to go elsewhere for a license? 1

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Liberty Counsel is a conservative Christian legal defense group. Lately, they have been specializing in assisting clients who want to have the religious freedom to discriminate against others -- typically members of the LGBT community. An anonymous author posted a "Liberty Alert" on their web site. It said:

"Kim Davis did not sign up as a clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Her job duty was changed by five lawyers without any constitutional authority. At a minimum, her religious convictions should be accommodated." 2

Garrett Epps, writing for The Atlantic, rejected this opinion. He responded:

"Government in particular has an obligation to dismiss any employee who claims a right to discriminate against citizens.

Is it possible to agree on what religious freedom is not? It’s not a right to wear a Marine uniform but refuse to fight. It’s not a right to be a county clerk and decide which citizens you will serve and which you won’t. 'Religious 'accommodation' doesn’t mean what Liberty Counsel thinks it means. If a person can perform the duties of a job with some adjustment for religious belief, that’s an accommodation. If they’re not willing to do the job, they have to leave. That’s not just a requirement of law; honor requires it as well." 3

Webmaster's rant [bias alert]:

Besides the requirement of honor, there is the command by Jesus for Ms. Davis and all other Christians to follow what is now called the Golden Rule. That requires her to treat others as she would wish others to treat her.

In addition there is the Oath of Office that she took before assuming her duties as county clerk. At that time, she promised to always uphold the Constitution of the United States.

The Liberty Alert says that Ms. Davis' job was changed by five "lawyers" who did lacked the constitutional authority to do so. 2 The anonymous author of the alert is presumably referring to the five Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who voted to overturn the decision of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Obergefell v. Hodges case and make gay marriages the law throughout the land.

I think that almost all constitutional experts in the U.S. would agree that a federal Constitution is useless unless there is some government body assigned the responsibility to interpret what the document means. The Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly state that the federal, state, territorial, district, and local governments must treat citizens equally. Some arm of government must be authorized to interpret whether those clauses apply in the case of an otherwise qualified same-sex couple who want to marry. That task has traditionally been performed by the U.S. Supreme Court for the entire history of the United States. Interpreting the Constitution is one -- if not their main -- task. If it is not up to the U.S. Supreme Court, I haven't the foggiest idea what person or group is empowered to interpret the Constitution.

On AUG-19, I posted the following comment on Liberty Counsel's Facebook page:

"In your 'Liberty Alert' about Kim Davis, an anonymous author wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges 'without any constitutional authority.' If the High Court does not have the constitutional authority to interpret the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, exactly who does have this authority? I am at a total loss to understand which other group it could be."

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Judge Bunning wrote in his ruling:

"Davis has arguably [violated the First Amendment] by openly adopting a policy that promotes her own religious convictions at the expense of others.

Our form of government will not survive unless we, as a society, agree to respect the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions, regardless of our personal opinions. Davis is certainly free to disagree with the court's opinion, as many Americans likely do, but that does not excuse her from complying with it. To hold otherwise would set a dangerous precedent."

Current national polls indicate that on the order of 35% oppose marriage equality while about 60% support it.

District Judge Bunning also wrote that Davis:

"... likely has violated the constitutional rights of her constituents ... [by promoting her Christian beliefs] at the expense of others.

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 [restricted to] 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." 1,4

Mat Staver is a former Seventh-day Adventist pastor, the founder of Liberty Counsel, and one of Clerk Davis' lawyers. He issued a statement saying:

"Judge Bunning’s decision equated Kim’s free exercise of religion to going to church. This is absurd. Christianity is not a robe you take off when you leave a sanctuary. The First Amendment [to the U.S. Constitution] guarantees Kim and every American the free exercise of religion, even when they are working for the government" 5

Her lawyers immediately filed an appeal. She has continued her refusal of District Judge Bunning's order to issue licenses to any couples. One of her attorneys, Roger Gannam, is a senior litigation counsel at Liberty Counsel. He said:

Kim Davis is resolute in vindicating her rights. Fundamentally, we disagree with this order because the government should never be able to compel a person to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs." 6

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. John Cheves, "Clerk turns away same-sex couple after federal judge orders her to issue marriage licenses," Lexington Herald-Leader, 2015-AUG-12, at: http://www.kentucky.com/
  2. "Kentucky Clerk Continues Fight for Religious Liberty," Liberty Counsel, 2015-AUG-13, at: http://www.lc.org/
  3. Garrett Epps, "When Public Servants Refuse to Serve the Public," The Atlantic, 2015-AUG-16, at: http://www.theatlantic.com/
  4. Claair Galofaro, "Defying ruling, Kentucky clerk refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses," Boston Globe, 2015-AUG-13, at: https://www.bostonglobe.com/
  5. Sara Horn, "Federal judge: Apostolic Christian clerk must issue same-sex marriage licenses," Christian Examiner, 2015-AUG-14, at: http://www.christianexaminer.com/
  6. Barry Duke, "Judge tells Christian clerk: ‘Do your job," TheFreeThinker, 2015-AUG-13, at: http://freethinker.co.uk/

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How you may have arrived here:

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-AUG-13
Latest update: 2015-SEP-06
Author: B.A. Robinson
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