Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis will appear in federal court today to explain why she believes that God and her personal convictions empower her to break the law and deny gay people their constitutionally protected rights. Ever since this summer’s Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, Davis has been refusing to issue marriage licenses – to any couple, gay or straight – citing her religious beliefs. She was ordered by the governor to do her job, but she refused. She was ordered by a federal judge to do her job, but she refused. This week, the Supreme Court rejected her appeal of the federal judge’s decision, which should have been the final word on the matter, but she’s still refusing to the job she was elected by the people of Kentucky to do. And so now she’s being hauled before a judge to determine whether she’s in contempt of court.
There is no debate on that question: Davis is flagrantly in contempt and should be punished for what she’s done. After the Supreme Court rejected her appeal, a gay couple confronted Davis and asked her to explain what authority she had to continue denying them their rights. “God’s authority,” she shot back, which is the absolute wrong answer for a government employee to provide. The Constitution is the governing power in Kim Davis’ office, and she is bound by oath to adhere to the law. She is breaking that oath, defying the Constitution, abusing her authority, and insisting that she suffer no consequences for her behavior.
Davis’ illegal and morally dubious stand against gay marriage does appeal, however, to the slice of the conservative movement that is hell bent on restoring the good old days of godly virtue when you had the state’s blessing to discriminate against gay people. It just so happens that there are a number of Republican presidential candidates who are trying to motivate that highly politically active segment of the population to get behind their campaigns, and that’s led us to a situation in which people running for the nation’s highest elected office are cheering on a rogue government employee’s defiance of the Constitution.
If you were forced to guess which 2016 Republican candidate would line up behind Davis, you would of course choose Mike Huckabee, because Mike Huckabee is a crazy person who says things like “the Supreme Court is not the supreme being, and they cannot overturn the laws of nature or of nature’s god.”
And you would be 100 percent correct. Here’s Huckabee in South Carolina calling Kim Davis a hero for defying the tyrants of the Supreme Court:
“I salute her today, and I stand with her,” Huckabee said, explaining that he called her up to thank her for standing up to “judicial tyranny.” Huckabee added: “I thank God for Kim Davis, and I hope more Americans will stand with her.”
Davis also got an attagirl from her home state senator and increasingly hopeless presidential contender, Rand Paul. Rand wasn’t quite so effusive in his praise of Davis as Huckabee, but he did say: “I think people who do stand up and are making a stand to say that they believe in something is an important part of the American way.” He is correct that American history is full of people who left their mark by controversially standing up for their beliefs in defiance of the law – people like Orval Faubus, and George Wallace. Rand explained that his preferred policy would be to get states out of the marriage business altogether, which would potentially resolve the issue but doesn’t really speak to the immediacy of the problem at hand.
Davis also got a hearty endorsement from Bobby Jindal, who is somehow still running for president despite polling in the mid to low zeroes. “I don't think anyone should have to choose between following their conscience and religious beliefs and giving up their job and facing financial sanctions,” Jindal said in a statement to the Huffington Post.
Not every Republican candidate is behind Davis – Carly Fiorina, for example, has urged Davis to either give up or resign. But the situation could be complicated further depending on how harshly Davis is punished by the courts. It’s possible that Davis could land in jail for contempt, and as ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser notes, as a prisoner she “could inspire others to defy the Constitution if she is perceived as a martyr.” Were that to happen, we could see more would-be Republican presidents championing brazen illegality in the service of anti-gay discrimination.