Stupidity, Not Religion, Put Kim Davis in Jail

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, walks with her attorney Roger Gannam into the United States District Court for the Easte
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, walks with her attorney Roger Gannam into the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington, Ky., Monday, July 20, 2015. Davis, who has said she cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because it would violate her religious beliefs, is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on the behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Kim Davis is in jail. That seems to be what both she and her attorneys wanted.

Ms. Davis may be an elected Democrat, but she is first and foremost a Bible-thumper. She is convinced her job is Guardian of Morals according to the teachings of her fundamentalist sect.

Under Kentucky law, Davis, as a public official, is obligated to fulfill all duties of her position. She refused. In addition, she actively prevented other employees from doing their jobs as well--all because she claims it violates her religious beliefs.

Her attorneys, who are from an anti-gay group designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, have steered her wrongly in terms of the law. They are more interested in creating a martyr for their fund appeals than in giving good legal advice--which calls into question whether they should lose their law licenses for malpractice.

Not only has Davis refused to do her job, she also used her position to forbid assistant clerks from doing their jobs as well. There are clerks in her office willing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis ordered them to refuse service to gay clients because her religion is anti-gay. Davis isn't just demanding the right to drag her religious beliefs into her job. She is also demanding county employees abide by her religious beliefs, as well as local residents, even those in same-sex relationships.

One of her attorneys, Roger Gannam, claims:

"Today, for the first time in history, an American citizen has been incarcerated for having the belief of conscience that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. And she's been ordered to stay there until she's willing to change her mind, until she's willing to change her conscience about what belief is."

That is a bald-faced lie. Ms. Davis is in jail for contempt of court, not for her beliefs. Her attorney knows this, but the rubes on the Right, whose pockets they want to pick, don't know this. Gannam's statement isn't legally accurate, but it is good publicity for Liberty Counsel's fund appeal letters and e-mails.

Davis maneuvered herself onto the cross and is now the martyr she sought to be.

What she never understood was she was never acting on her own behalf as country clerk.

Davis is a public official doing the work of government. Government should treat all citizens fairly. It doesn't, but should. Davis was not acting on her own behalf. She didn't issue marriage licenses; the county did. She issued them on behalf of the government.

Since she was acting on behalf of the state,her own religious views are utterly immaterial. If they forbid her from doing the job, she had the moral obligation to step down.

Davis has only been in this job a few months. When she took office, it was already widely known that gay marriage would be ruled on shortly. It was also widely speculated that the Supreme Court would rule in favor of marriage equality, especially given the almost unanimous lower court rulings. So, the "hazard" of having to issue same-sex marriage licenses was one she knew was a very real possibility when she took the job. She went into this with eyes wide open.

The marriage license was legally valid because the Country Clerk issued it, not because Kim Davis issued it. She could resign and issue licenses all day long from her home, but that wouldn't make them legal. Kim Davis has no legal authority other than when acting as Clerk, and, when she is acting as County Clerk she is not acting on her own behalf.

As this is the case, her personal religious views are utterly immaterial. The County itself does not hold religious views. State and religion are separate entities. If Ms. Davis is under the impression the County Clerk should have religious beliefs, she is mistaken. The County Clerk is an office, not a person.

What Davis is doing in issuing a license is merely saying two people are legally qualified to enter a marriage. She is not sanctioning the marriage. She is not saying she approves of their choices. She is merely affirming they are legally qualified, nothing more. She is not approving of it, or disapproving of it. If she can't do her job, then she should resign.

If Davis refuses to do the job she was elected to do, she should be impeached, which is the function of the Kentucky legislature. That the Republican dominated legislature refuses to do that is a disservice to Davis and to constitutional government. Local officials don't have the right to impose their religious beliefs on others.

Davis took this to court by her own actions. She lost. She appealed. She lost again. She appealed again. She lost again. Every step of the way the courts have told her she has no right to refuse to fulfill her job functions. She is now in contempt of court and that is why she is in jail. It is her actions, not her beliefs that landed her there.