Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, has been released after being jailed for refusing to let her office issue marriage licenses to gay couples. She is being touted as a hero by many conservatives, including Mike Huckabee, who stood by her side when she spoke to the press after her release.
As an Evangelical who wants very much to be a biblical person, I find myself embarrassed by those conservatives who cannot grasp that one person’s religious beliefs cannot be allowed to cause an official government office. It is the job of the county clerk to issue the marriage licenses in accord with the law. It is not the clerk’s right to set the rules for his/her department without regard to the law. “Give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” said Jesus.
Ms. Davis could have been a more legitimate hero for conservatives had she merely quit her job in protest. And of course, any given individual — acting as an individual — has the right to resist unjust laws. But no one acting as a representative of the state has the right to defy the law.
She was jailed quite justly for contempt of court and has forfeited her right to hold her public office. What would Mike Huckabee say if a Muslim were county clerk and refused to issue marriage licenses to Christians or Jews? That would be unthinkable, obviously, but no more so than a Christian refusing a license to a gay couple.
The key is that the county clerk functions as an agent of the government and therefore must run the clerk’s office in accord with the law. The alternative — anarchy — is pretty awful to contemplate.