The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a county clerk in Kentucky who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her sincerely held religious beliefs.
Late Monday the court rejected an appeal from Kim Davis, the clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, who continues to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs.
Davis, who has been married four times, claims she cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her sincere religious objections. In the appeal her lawyers asked the court to block a lower court order directing her to issue the licenses, saying Davis “holds an undisputed sincerely held religious belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, only.”
The case was the court’s first opportunity to consider whether government officials may refuse to comply with the recent Supreme Court decision establishing a nationwide constitutional right to same-sex marriage on religious grounds. USA Today notes:
The ruling, made without comment or any apparent dissents, is an early indication that while some push-back against gay marriage on religious grounds may be upheld, the justices won’t tolerate it from public officials.
JoDee Winterhof, Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs, said:
Ms. Davis’ choices are clear: she must either choose to follow the law or resign her public position. A public official’s personal religious opinion does not give her the privilege to trample over the rights of others. Freedom of religion is important, and Ms. Davis has the fundamental right to believe what she likes. But as a public servant, she does not have the right to pick and choose which laws she will follow or which services she will provide. We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied the stay.
In a thoughtful editorial the Lexington Herald-Leader observes:
It’s astounding that in almost three decades on the public payroll, Davis never sorted out the roles of government and religion under the U.S. Constitution that she swore to uphold.
Nothing reveals the absurdity of her position more clearly than her lawyer’s response to the latest ruling against her. Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver continues to insist that elected public officials have a constitutional right to pick and choose which of their government duties they will perform based on their religious beliefs — in other words, that public officials can use religion to discriminate against certain citizens.
Nothing could be more un-American. What he is advocating would destroy the rule of law, a foundation of our republic. And imagine the chaos, given the wide range of religious beliefs.
Churches and clergy are still free to limit marriage according to their religions’ beliefs, but public officials must follow the law and treat all citizens equally.
Bottom line: If religious superstition and bigotry prevents Davis from doing her job and issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she needs to resign her position and find another line of employment that won’t offend her sincerely held religious beliefs.