The Supreme Court has dismissed the case of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis seeking an “asylum for her conscience” in refusing to issue gay marriage licenses, Associated Press has just reported.
This is seen as a landmark case, being the first religious objection to the Supreme Court’s blanket legalisation of gay marriage two months ago. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has been consistently in the headlines for her point blank refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Davis has been through most of the lower courts of Kentucky as well as Federal courts in her bid to be exempted from licensing gay marriages. Reuters reports that as well as her own legal actions, multiple gay couples have taken her to Federal court over her refusal to issue marriage licenses. Her position was made clear in a statement from her lawyers. In a statement reported by MSNBC, they claimed that being forced to license gay and lesbian marriages would be a “searing act of validation [that] would forever echo in her conscience.”
At time of writing, Davis had ceased to issue any marriage licenses at all, leading to legal action being initiated from straight as well as gay couples seeking marriage. Davis has applied for numerous stays and other forms of injunctive relief with some success, but the last stay expires today, with the judge refusing to extend it. In light of the Associated Press report, this would now seem to be a moot point. Come tomorrow, Kim Davis will either have to start issuing marriage licenses in spite of her conscience or leave a 30-year career in the service of Kentucky. While many sympathize with her position, the majority of commentators, legal and otherwise, have no doubts about the fact that her duty as a government official trumps her individual beliefs, and Davis has been roundly condemned for turning away gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage.
Davis hasn’t had much luck in her legal odyssey so far, with judge after judge ruling against her saying, in essence, that as a legal functionary, her duty operated separately from her own personal opinions on gay and lesbian marriage, regardless of whether they were based in religion or anything else. Last week, a panel of judges from the appeals court had something to say about the merits of her case.
“It cannot be defensibly argued that the holder of the Rowan County Clerk’s office, apart from who personally occupies that office, may decline to act in conformity with the United States Constitution as interpreted by a dispositive holding of the United States Supreme Court.”
It comes as no surprise that the Supreme Court would agree with such a ruling. Marriage equality advocates are jubilant, with triumphant tweets erupting all over Twitter, and the #equalityrising hashtag leaping up the trending list. Conservative commentators are less pleased, calling the decision “shameful” and “embarrassing.”