Gay couples can petition, protest and even sue – but that won’t change Probate Judge Wes Allen’s mind: He is not issuing them marriage licenses, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that marriage is a constitutional right equally held by all Americans. He believes marriage is one man, one woman.
Allen is the probate judge in Pike County, AL. He is among a handful of public officials across the Bible Belt so repulsed by the thought of enabling a same-sex marriage that they are defying the Supreme Court and refusing to issue a license to anyone, gay or straight.
Allen and other probate judges in the state cite Alabama Code section 30-1-9, which says marriage licenses “may” be issued by them – not that they must issue them. Consequently, Allen says, he is “not in violation of any Supreme Court order. … We’re just going to hold the course and not issue any marriage licenses.”
In Kentucky on Tuesday, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis shut her blinds at work to block the view of rainbow-clad protesters outside. They carried flags and signs saying, “You don’t own marriage” and chanted, “Do your job!” Later, Davis told a lesbian couple asking for a license to try another county.
“It’s a deep-rooted conviction; my conscience won’t allow me” to grant gay-marriage licenses, Davis told AP. “It goes against everything I hold dear, everything sacred in my life.”
Legal experts are dubious that religious freedom arguments will protect public officials who not only refuse to participate due to their own beliefs, but also decline to make accommodations so that others who don’t object can serve the public instead.
Two things can happen if a Kentucky clerk won’t issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple: They can resign, or go to jail, said Sam Marcosson, a constitutional law professor at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.
“If it means that you simply cannot fulfill your duties because of your religious beliefs, what is required of you is that you can no longer hold that office,” Marcosson said. “That applies to a judge, that applies to a senator, that applies to anyone who holds public office.”
Clerks and probate judges hold the keys to marriage in counties around the country, and in many rural areas, there are few alternatives for hundreds of miles. Couples turned away could seek a court order, and a clerk who still refuses to issue a license could be jailed for contempt, Marcosson said.
They also risk criminal official misconduct charges, said Warren County Attorney Ann Milliken, president of the Kentucky County Attorneys Association. The misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, is committed when a public servant “refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.”
Casey Davis, the clerk in Casey County, Kentucky, says he won’t resign and he’d rather go to jail than issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. None have yet come in to get one, he said.
After the Supreme Court declared that marriage is a constitutional right equally held by all Americans, clerks in Arkansas and Mississippi resigned Tuesday rather than be forced to sign the licenses of gays and lesbians. Linda Barnette, the circuit clerk in Grenada County, Mississippi, for 24 years, wrote in her resignation letter that she is a “follower of Christ” and that she chooses “to obey God rather than man.”
In Kentucky, Kim Davis stayed firm in denying one Tuesday to April Miller and Karen Roberts, a couple of 11 years who live in Morehead.
The office of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway encouraged any couples who are turned away to seek private counsel. Miller and Roberts contacted the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky to represent them.
“This is where we live; we pay taxes here, we vote here. And we want to get married here,” said Miller.
“Our country is on the wrong path. We as a people no longer exalt God,” said Dennis Buschman, who carried a Bible as he led a half-dozen people supporting the clerk’s defiance. He called homosexuality an “abomination” and a “serious, serious sin.”
Some protesters confronted them. “God did not elect her, I did,” said Kevin Bass, a former police officer who arrived at the courthouse with his wife to support gay couples seeking licenses. “If she objects to doing her job, she can go.”
While it’s certainly not fair for these people to lose their jobs for standing by their beliefs, there’s no other way this could turn out. This SCOTUS ruling basically pitted the 1A against the 14th and will create hostilities across the US. There will be widespread arguments on this matter in the coming months, but in the long run the practicality of keeping one’s job will win out and Christians will be forced to do things in contradiction to their faith.
It didn’t take long for the Kentucky AG to advise people to lawyer up and for the lesbos to bring in the ACLU. You can already see the court dockets getting stacked deep in these types of cases. Get used to it, because this isn’t going away for a long time.
We’ve been battling the divisive racist issues ever since Ferguson where our government ratcheted up a near dead issue. If that weren’t enough, the Supremes throw this log on the fire to further divide this country. Our government is the enemy and has done everything but fire the first shot.