Kim Davis Update: A Win for Religious Freedom?

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Do you remember Kim Davis?

She’s the Kentucky court clerk who became the victim du jour in the culture wars by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A judge decided that he, and not the voters, should be the arbiter as to how Mrs Davis performed her duties as a duly elected official and put her in jail for six days for contempt of court.

Not long after that, Mrs Davis had a brief audience with Pope Francis when he visited the USA. This resulted in all sorts of hair-pulling commentary on both sides of argument about what the Holy Father’s time with Mrs Davis signaled. That resulted in a side-stepper from the Vatican in which it said he wasn’t taking sides in the argument.

The ACLU, not being satisfied with getting yes for an answer on the question of the marriage licenses, moved forward with three additional lawsuits it had filed against Mrs Davis. In my opinion, this action was intended to be punishment.

The lawsuits were, as the courts later ruled, unnecessary at this point. They had nothing to do with getting the licenses or much of anything else. The only reason for moving forward was to make sure Mrs Davis suffered.

Now the courts have tossed out those three spurious lawsuits, basing their conclusion on the fact that, since the licenses had been issued, the lawsuits were moot. (Duh.)

None of this addresses the larger issue of whether or not judges can put elected officials in jail based on the judge’s opinion of how the elected official performs his or her duties. This country has been down this road many times.

The Civil Rights struggle, with elected officials defying federal court orders (not just federal court opinions) is an example. There was a lot of back and forth, including using federal marshals to escort little children into school, but no one even considered that the courts had the right to imprison an elected officials based on the court’s interpretation of how they conducted their office.

What happened to Kim Davis was a massive broadening of judicial powers into other branches of government which slipped by unnoticed because of the screaming nuttiness of those who favor same-sex “marriage.” It is a clear violation of the separation of powers which work to preserve us from tyranny — in this case, judicial tyranny, but it could go in other ways in the future — to a judge to summarily imprison an elected official based on the judge’s opinion of the official’s performance of their duties.

Mrs Davis was elected, and that means something. Or it should.

While I’m happy about the court’s decision to throw these lawsuits out, and I am sure Mrs Davis must feel relieved not to be under the gun of a lawsuit anymore, I do not think this case is a meaningful victory for religious freedom.

I’m glad it turned out well, and I respect the efforts of the Liberty Counsel in defending Mrs Davis. But the dismissal of these cases is hardly a landmark. It’s more of a testament to the petty malice of the ACLU in trying to continue these actions against Mrs Davis long after they had already won the things that they claimed they were after.

I think this action on the part of the ACLU was designed to make an example of Mrs Davis, to drag her through the courts and damage her financially and emotionally by using the judicial process as a club with which to beat her. That’s hardly a fight for civil liberties. It is rather, the opposite.

Gay marriage proponents have employed a scorched earth method of getting whatever they want. In doing this, they have made it clear that they consider the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers, and individual liberties expendable.

The sad thing in all this is that they have won every match so far. This court victory, while I am very glad for what it does for Mrs Davis, does not change that.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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About Author

Pro Life Democrats are, as they say in Oklahoma, as rare as hen's teeth. That makes Rebecca Hamilton a rare find indeed. When Rebecca left her 18-year career in the Ok Legislature last November, she had more seniority than any other member of the legislature. In the 1980s, Rebecca experienced a knock-you-down-in-middle-of-the-road conversion experience that changed her from pro abortion to pro life. Before her conversion, Rep Hamilton had advocated for legal abortion in the legislature. Before her first election in 1980, she was the Oklahoma Director of NARAL. She left office after 3 terms when she had her first baby and was a full-time stay at home Mom for 16 years. She was re-elected to office in 2002 and spent the next 12 years passing pro life legislation. Rebecca is the author of the bill that broke the 30-year logjam on pro life legislation in Oklahoma. She passed the bill ending elective abortions in state hospitals. Rebecca also passed a resolution calling Congress to begin hearings on an amendment to the United States Constitution defining marriage as between one woman and one man. Because of her pro life work, Rebecca came within a razor thin vote margin of being publicly censured by the Oklahoma State Democratic Party at the 2007 statewide party convention. Rebecca blogs at Patheos at Public Catholic where she writes at the intersection of faith and public life.

4 Comments

  1. WENDELL BERNARD on

    A County Clerk’s duty is to issue marriage licenses…period. She was not performing those duties, as this was articulated in the final, firm ruling of the United State Supreme Court. Shall local election Boards be able to not register black people to vote? I’m not particularly interested in seeing Ms Davis (how many sacred marriages has she had?) punished, but she cannot disobey the courts ruling.

    Finally, the author’s practice of placing quotation marks around same sex marriage is highly offensive. I have been in such a relationship for 41 years – a loving relationship of mutual respect and support. We have nurtured each other through the most difficult episodes life can offer. I do not understand the hate that animates this “Christian.”

    • Wendell-

      You are correct that it isn’t Ms. Davis’ job to make state law nor conduct her duties in accord with what she thinks of state law. She’s a clerk and has to perform clerical duties.

      Having said that, it’s completely predictable that having pronounced your judgement upon, Davis, you then turn your fire on those who disagree with same-sex marriage as animated by “hate”.

      Very simplistic and frankly, a shopworn warhorse that’s been put to pasture long ago.

      • What Wendell is saying is that the author’s use of quotations is offensive. It would be no different if the author put quotes around interracial “marriage” or protestant “marriage” or divorced and re”married.” We respect institutions like marriage and do not make it our business to pass judgment on other peoples’ marriages. Behavior to the contrary certainly raises a suspicion as to the author’s motivation. Sadly, it is often hate, whether they recognize it or not.

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