After spending five days in jail for defending her right to freedom of religion, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis has just been released thanks to a judge’s order. While Davis and her supporters are celebrating her release, the ACLU — who’d petitioned the court last week to hold her in contempt of court — is also claiming victory with the statement it just released on the ACLU of Kentucky website:
ROWAN CLERK RELEASED FROM JAIL, ORDERED NOT TO INTERFERE WITH MARRIAGE LICENSING
U.S. District Judge David Bunning today released Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from custody of the U.S. Marshals under order that she not interfere with deputy clerks issuing marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples. On September 3, Davis was found in contempt of court for violating an order that required her to uphold her duty as a public official and issue marriage licenses to Rowan County couples immediately.
The following comment may be attributed to William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky, representing plaintiffs in this case:
“This case was brought to ensure that all residents of Rowan County, gay and straight, could obtain marriage licenses. That goal has been achieved. The Kentucky Attorney General and counsel for Rowan County have said the marriage licenses are valid. We are relying on those representations, and our clients look forward to proceeding with their plans to marry.”
As Kentucky.com reported, the marriage licenses now have replaced Ms. Davis’ name with a generic “Rowan County” imprimatur — removing her other objection, that even having her name on the license would violate her religious beliefs.
So, everyone’s happy, right? Ms. Davis is free from jail and all residents of Rowan County are now able to obtain marriage licenses, without violating Ms. Davis’ religious beliefs.
It begs the big question: why wasn’t this accommodation — having other clerks issue licenses without Ms. Davis’ name — made in the first place? Why was Ms. Davis forced to spend even a night in jail for defending her First Amendment right? According to our First Amendment — and Kentucky’s own Religious Freedom Restoration Act — “reasonable accommodation” is required in instances like this.
Was Ms. Davis just being used as a scapegoat to make the dramatic point that the “right” to same-sex marriage — handed down by five unelected justices — supersedes not just state law, but the fundamental First Amendment right to freedom of religion?
After the Supreme Court’s decision put the “right” to same-sex marriage on a collision course with some citizens’ First Amendment rights to freedom of religion (not to mention existing laws in many states), have we now entered a phase where some “rights” are more “equal” than others — where one right trumps another? So far, it appears we may be headed down that path, given the case of Kim Davis — as well as the many bakers, florists and more — who’ve been penalized for exercising their First Amendment rights. So far “reasonable accommodation” seems to have been largely left out of this equation — or a mere afterthought, at the very least. And who defines that anyway?
One thing is certain: this can of worms has only just been cracked open.
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]