Today will likely be an interesting day for Kentucky’s Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk who’s paid by taxpayers to issue marriage licenses, but who refuses to provide licenses to couples she finds morally objectionable, citing “God’s authority.”
Yesterday, Davis and her attorneys once again asked a federal court to allow her to ignore the law, effectively seeking a waiver from multiple court orders. Not only is this likely to fail, but the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge David Bunning, appointed to the bench by George W. Bush, will reportedly ask Davis today why he shouldn’t hold her in contempt.
In the meantime, the dispute has gained increasing national notoriety, becoming the new litmus test for Republican presidential candidates. MSNBC’s Alex Jaffe reported last night:
The Republican presidential field has started to take positions on Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who’s scheduled to appear in court on Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses in the state against the order of a federal judge. […]A handful of candidates weighed in on Tuesday and Wednesday, but only after they were asked for comment. Candidates who responded so far have done so along predictable lines, with social conservatives expressing outspoken support for Davis, and more moderate-minded candidates dismissing her move.
The more some candidates weighed in, the more others felt compelled to do the same. And at this point, it’s clear that a few GOP candidates recognize the importance of the rule of law, while others aren’t so sure.
Let’s start with those who’ve answered the question correctly. John Kasich, Lindsey Graham, and Carly Fiorina all agreed that Americans can’t simply ignore court orders they don’t like. Indeed, Graham was unequivocal, arguing yesterday, “The rule of law is the rule of law. I appreciate her conviction, I support traditional marriage, but she’s accepted a job in which she has to apply the law to everyone.”
Stating the point that should be obvious, the South Carolina senator added that Davis should “follow the law or resign.”
National Republicans were not, however, unanimous on this. Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul were equally clear in their support for Davis’ argument. Huckabee, in particular, reached out to the clerk directly to voice his support and offer encouragement.
(In Huckabee’s imaginary version of American civics, just because the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is now legal in the United States does not mean marriage equality is now legal in the United States. The former Arkansas governor continues to suggest the court’s decision doesn’t really count unless Congress passes “enabling legislation” – a legal procedure that Huckabee made up for reasons that only make sense to him.)
As for the rest of the 2016 field, Chris Christie hedged on the issue – he does that a lot – but seemed to suggest Davis does not have the law on her side. Marco Rubio, meanwhile, argued, “While the clerk’s office has a governmental duty to carry out the law, there should be a way to protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of individuals working in the office.”
What might that “way” be? Rubio didn’t say.