Monday, September 28, 2015

“If I Only Had A Brain…”

You can’t make this stuff up. As an author, when I write fiction I have to abide by the rule of believability. Sure, I may be writing about vampires or a story set on a distant planet, but there’s a limit to what the readers may be asked to accept before exceeding how much they’re willing to suspend their disbelief. But when it comes to reality, Kim Davis and her entourage have redefined the boundary of absurdity.

Davis is a county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky. “As county clerk I am responsible for providing many services to the people of Rowan county,” Davis states on her Website: “These duties include general categories of clerical duties of the fiscal court: issuing and registering, recording and keeping various legal records, registering and purging voter rolls, and conducting election duties and tax duties.” But apparently, Davis believes she can exclude homosexuals from the definition of “the people of Rowan County” since she has steadfastly refused to issue marriage licenses to gays and lesbians despite the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that the U.S. Constitution guarantees marriage rights to homosexual couples.

 The court wrote: “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that. States must issue marriage licenses to gay couples requesting them. Period. Kim Davis refused to do so. A judge held her in contempt of court and sent her to jail for refusing to obey a court order to perform her duty. The same duty she admits on her own Website that she was elected to do: issue marriage licenses to the people of Rowan County, Kentucky. All of the people of Rowan County, including the gay ones.

That’s when the circus came to town. Presidential aspirants Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, and their media entourages, descended on Rowan County like a biblical plague of locusts. Huckabee planned a rally to free Kim Davis from her jail cell, unaware the judge had released her hours earlier. The rally went on anyway, with the former Arizona governor displaying contempt for the nation’s system of jurisprudence by declaring “Five, unelected Supreme Court lawyers did not and cannot make law. They can only make rulings.” Well, Gov. Huckabee, Supreme Court rulings are considered the law of the land. It’s called case law and it is as valid and enforceable as statutory law that arises from legislative bodies. Apparently Huckabee read the section on separation of powers in his high school civics book but failed to read any further. While it is true that the legislatures make the laws and the courts interpret them, our legal system is based to a far greater extent on the interpretation of those laws rather than solely on the underlying statutes themselves. As a former chief executive of a state, Huckabee should know this. To deny it, he is being either disingenuous or dishonest.

Huckabee continued his grandstanding by declaring to the crowd, “If somebody needs to go to jail, I'm willing to go in her place,” knowing full well that in this country one cannot serve prison time on behalf of another person convicted of a crime. It was pure pandering: a hollow gesture offered only to secure votes in the next presidential election. Then, Kim Davis joined him on stage, stepping onto the dais to the accompaniment of the song, “Eye of the Tiger.” (The band Survivor has since threatened legal action, as no one affiliated with the rally had asked its permission to use its copyrighted song.) A tall man in a straw hat and denim overalls towered above Davis and Huckabee, looking like a cross between the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz and a refugee from a Chex cereal commercial. He turned out to be Davis’ husband, his attire adding comic relief to an already absurd scene. He described himself to the Associated Press as “an old redneck hillbilly.” Actually, Joe Davis is Kim’s fourth husband; she not only issues marriage licenses to others, but has collected several herself.

Davis refuses to issue marriage licenses to couples she finds morally objectionable based on her religious beliefs. Never mind the hypocrisy that she has admitted in court under oath to having committed adultery, presumably also against her religious beliefs. Davis’ hypocrisy is irrelevant because her beliefs, whatever they may be, are irrelevant. The issue is not about who should be entitled to a marriage license. That question has been settled repeatedly by the Supreme Court: in 2015, allowing same-sex marriages, and earlier in 1967, in Loving v. Virginia allowing interracial marriages. The concept is a simple one: people should be allowed to marry whomever they love and states cannot prevent them from doing so.

When one acts as an agent of the government, he or she must abide by the law of the land, as expressed in both statutes and case law. Clerks must perform their ministerial duties based solely on the law, not on any personal beliefs they may hold and if they feel they cannot perform their duties then they must resign. This is not about whether or not you believe homosexuals should be allowed to marry. It’s not about faith or religion. It’s about doing your job regardless of your personal beliefs or feelings. One need look no further than Republican icon Bristol Palin, currently expecting her second out-of-wedlock child, who became a millionaire by lecturing on sexual abstinence to teenagers. If Bristol can do her job, then Kim Davis and all the county clerks like her can hold their noses and do the jobs they were elected or appointed to do. And if they truly find serving the people of their counties – ALL the people of their counties – to be so repugnant that they cannot perform the duties of their jobs then they need to resign, put down their Bibles, and pick up the Help Wanted section of the newspaper.

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