As unpopular as it may be to many in this state, Gov. Steve Beshear gave the right advice to Casey County Clerk Casey Davis in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court striking down the bans against same sex marriages not only in Kentucky but throughout the country: Obey the law or resign.
As harsh as that may sound, all elected officials in Kentucky swear to uphold the laws of this state when they take office, and that oath does not make any exceptions for one’s personal religious convictions. Well, a divided U.S. Supreme Court has decreed that couples of the same gender have the right to marry, and that makes it the law of the land. Regardless of their personal opinions about same-sex marriages or their religious beliefs, all 120 county clerks in Kentucky are sworn to uphold the law, and that means they must issue marriage licenses to couples of the same gender.
This is not the first time a Supreme Court decision has struck down state laws on who can and cannot marry. Decades ago, the highest court in the land declared that state laws, mostly in the south, that prohibited couples of different races from marrying were unconstitutional. Many elected officials at the time disagreed with that decision every bit as much as many disagree with the latest high court ruling, but they obeyed the law and issued marriage licenses to couples of different races.
The governor is right: The same thing must happen again.
More than half the county clerks in Kentucky have signed petitions asking that Beshear call an extraordinary session of the Kentucky General Assembly regarding the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriages, but the governor says he is not going to do that. For one thing, the session would cost the state about $60,000, but even more important, there is no consensus on what legislators can or should do regarding same-sex marriages. The lack of a consensus would only prolong a special session and make it even more costly.
We respect the religious convictions of Davis, a pastor, and the other clerks whose views don’t align with the court ruling. In the Book of Acts, Peter and John told Jewish leaders that they had to follow the laws of God instead of man when they were told not to spread the Gospel of Jesus, and that was the right response. In this case, for who clerks truly believe that they cannot follow the laws of God if they issue marriage licenses to couples of the same gender, then they may have a moral obligation to resign from their elected office of county clerk.
The governor, who will be leaving office in December and does not have to worry about earning the wrath of voters, has given clerks a choice: Obey the law or resign. The decision is up to each clerk.
The Independent, Ashland