“After months of hearing from conservatives and fundamentalists about how they were going to secede, leave the country, or burn themselves in effigy over same-sex marriage1,” the day arrived on June 26, 2015 when the United States Supreme Court rendered a 5-4 ruling that same-sex marriage would be the law of the land nationwide.
A landmark case, Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015) required all states to recognized same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions and to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and blow-back from conservatives and religious groups was immediate.
Austin Nimocks, the senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, accused the Supreme Court of undermining freedom of speech, saying that “five lawyers took away the voices of more than 300 million Americans to continue to debate the most important social institution in the history of the world. . . . Nobody has the right to say that a mom or a woman or a dad or a man is irrelevant.”
As of August 21, 2015, seventeen counties located in Alabama, Kentucky and Texas are either refusing or delaying the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses. Ballotpedia reports that eleven counties in Alabama and one in Kentucky, Rowan County, “decided to stop issuing marriage license altogether rather than supply them to same-sex couples.”
Irion County, Texas flatly refuses to issue licenses to same-sex couples. However, another two in Texas and two in Kentucky deny licenses only to same-sex couples and claim the delay is for technical reasons (i.e., updating forms or software). Some observers suspect that these delays of months after the Supreme Court decision are intentional and are being used as an excuse to discriminate while avoiding lawsuits. Indeed, clerks from two counties in Kentucky have demonstrated at the state capitol, demanding a religious exemption from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
NBC News reports that immediately following the Supreme Court’s June decision Kentucky governor Steve Beshear “ordered all the state’s county clerks to comply with the decision and issue marriage license to same-sex couples.” Kim Davis, the clerk in Rowan County, refused that order, citing a religious objection, and a federal district court judge ordered her to comply after two gay couples and two straight couples sued her, arguing that she must fulfill her duties as an elected official despite her personal religious faith. A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of appeals agreed. Shortly thereafter, Davis’ lawyer filed an emergency application for relief directed to Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.
MSN reports that on Monday Justice Kagan referred the matter to the full panel of the Supreme Court which denied that stay without any comment. MSN continued, reporting that “Davis will have to choose whether to issue marriage licenses, defying her Christian conviction, or continue to refuse them, defying a federal judge who could pummel her with fines or order that she be hauled off to jail.”
Additionally, Davis may already be facing criminal charges as a couple seeking a marriage license that had been turned away went to the Rowan Country Attorney, Cecil Watkins, seeing Davis’ be charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and defined by state law as a public official who “refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.”
MSN reports that “Watkins cited a conflict of interest and forwarded the complaint to Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, whose office will decide whether to appoint a special prosecutor, generally a county attorney from a surrounding jurisdiction, who would decide whether to file charges.”
FOOTNOTE 1: Republicans Are Going to Leave the Country and Set Themselves .., http://samuel-warde.com/2015/06/republicans-going-leave-country-set-fire-due-scotus/ (accessed September 01, 2015).