Op-Ed: The importance of Kim Davis

KENTUCKY COUNTY CLERK KIM DAVIS (Carter County Detention Center via AP)

KENTUCKY COUNTY CLERK KIM DAVIS

By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Kim Davis is a County Clerk in Kentucky recently imprisoned (though later released) for defending her deeply held religious beliefs.

When the Unites States Supreme Court made same sex marriage the law of the land throughout the entire nation, Ms. Davis decided that civil disobedience in defiance of what she considered an immoral law and contrary to her religious beliefs was her only option. So she is refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay or lesbian citizens of Kentucky.

Peaceful civil disobedience is part of the American political tradition and a tactic used to great success during the Civil Rights movement and protesting the Vietnam War and other unpopular public policies.

The difference here, which is very important, is that Ms. Davis is a government official who has sworn to uphold the laws of Kentucky and the United States. She is not an ordinary citizen protesting against government. She is not Rosa Parks taking a stand against an oppressive state government. She is the government.

The question of when a government official is called upon to administer a law that he or she considers unjust or immoral is an important one. But the path that Ms. Davis chose is wrong.

However, the situation is instructive as to the profound matters of equal protection of laws, individual rights and religious freedoms especially when they seem to conflict.

If Ms. Davis or any other government official cannot enforce the law and defend the civil liberties guaranteed to all Americans because of whatever their personal or religious convictions, then they must either resign or step aside and delegate to another official the enforcement of that law.

Government officials do not have the right or luxury to pick and choose those laws they agree with or not. Legal rights of American citizens is not a multiple choice question.

Short of finding a suitable alternative to having the laws enforced, resignation, dismissal or jail become the only other choices.

I respect any person who has the courage to forfeit their personal liberty for their beliefs and go to jail. But it should not have come to this. If Kim Davis cannot carry out her duty under the law because of religious objections she should not be in jail… but neither should she be in office.

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