It is now illegal for a state to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, but that hasn’t yet sunk in with many of the people responsible for issuing marriage licenses. In a fit of bureaucratic discretion, clerks in states ranging from Texas to Alabama, have shut down their entire marriage process rather than grant legal recognition to a single same-sex couple that wants to exercise their new right.
Kentucky is on that list, as well. In a video posted to YouTube yesterday, David Moore and his partner attempted to obtain a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky, where they live, only to be told multiple times that they would have to go to another county in order to obtain it.
The county clerk’s office also called the cops in an attempt to get the couple’s friend to stop filming the exchange.
Here’s the video:
When the couple finally does get to talk to someone in the clerk’s office — after waiting for nearly ten minutes and seeing others jump ahead of them in line — they are told that the office is not issuing marriage licenses to anyone. As the woman they interact with explains, it’s “her choice” — referring to County Clerk Kim Davis — as to whether the office will provide marriage documents to any couple, gay or straight.
That’s simply incorrect, and the couple told her so. Kentucky’s Governor and Attorney General have both issued official statements saying that county clerks must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Not only do clerks face lawsuits for refusing to do so, they could face criminal charged for official misconduct. After all, by refusing to fully execute the laws of the State of Kentucky, they are willfully abdicating their responsibilities as public officials, who are not “ministers of God.”
The couple brought copies of both the Governor’s letter and the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v Hodges ruling in anticipation that they would be denied their license.
They were right to come prepared. The ACLU has already sued Kim Davis over earlier refusals to issue same-sex marriage licenses. In the press release announcing that lawsuit, ACLU of Kentucky’s Cooperating Attorney Laura Ladenwich said:
Ms. Davis has the absolute right to believe whatever she wants about God, faith, and religion, but as a government official who swore an oath to uphold the law, she cannot pick and choose who she is going to serve, or which duties her office will perform based on her religious beliefs.
These county-by-county refusals to issue marriage licenses aren’t as big as the Massive Resistance movement that followed Brown v Board of Education, in which anti-integration governments shut down entire public school systems rather than allow black students to be in the same classroom as white students, but they have a familiar theme: Government officials are stretching their bureaucratic discretion beyond what is allowed by law in order to reject the premise of a change in policy they don’t agree with personally.
It’s a story that’s been told before, and it doesn’t end well for the holdouts.