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Fri, Aug. 23

Column: Rule of law is not a part-time thing

A young couple hesitatingly approaches their county clerk to request a marriage license. This couple lives, works, and pays taxes in the county and needs the license in order to marry. Unfortunately, the county clerk denies their request for a marriage license citing it is against her religious beliefs. Disappointed and confused, the young couple leaves the courthouse and decides to travel elsewhere to obtain a marriage license.

Throughout the history of the United States, some citizens have found themselves strangely at odds with the Constitution because of their religious beliefs. The Bill of Rights gives the citizens of our country freedom of religion, the right for individuals to follow their religious beliefs. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution requires federal, state and local governments to treat all people equally under the law. But what happens when a government employee's religious beliefs are at odds with the Constitution?

In 1967, the United States Supreme Court, ruling in the case of Loving v. Virginia, declared miscegenation laws unconstitutional. Miscegenation laws made it illegal for interracial couples to marry. When the Supreme Court made the 1967 ruling, a full 72% of American adults were opposed to interracial marriage and 48% favored criminal punishment for those who did marry. Today no one thinks twice about an interracial marriage, but the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses seems to be an explosive issue in one small Kentucky county.

Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, has continually refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. So she wouldn't be seen as discriminating against these couples, she then refused to issue "any" marriage licenses to any couples requesting a marriage license, regardless of their sex. Ms. Davis' refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is based on her religious beliefs. Her beliefs are so strong that she has now spent time in jail after defying a court order to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

As every god-fearing American should, I respect Ms. Davis' right to follow her conscience and her religious beliefs. I even admire the courage of her convictions; convictions so strong that she would even defy the courts and spend time in jail. But, as an elected official who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, I do not believe that Ms. Davis has the right to disobey the laws of the state of Kentucky and the United States by denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She cannot pick and choose which laws she will or will not obey off a menu of laws that may, or may not, be acceptable to her.

Ms. Davis was elected by the citizens in her county to fulfill the obligations of a county clerk and those duties include issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She doesn't have to approve, believe in, endorse, or agree with the licenses she issues. She doesn't have to attend their weddings, bake their cakes, or take their photos. By issuing a marriage license, she is only verifying the eligibility of a couple to marry under Kentucky law. This is the job she was elected to do and if she cannot do her job, then she simply needs to resign her position.

This is not about whether or not you agree with the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage; it is about the Rule of Law. Let me be clear - if the rule of law in our country breaks down at any level, then our lives become controlled, not by the Constitution, but by the whims of our elected officials. It was Aristotle who said, "The only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law."

Pam Jones has been politically active at the local, state and national levels for over 20 years. In addition to owning her own healthcare consulting business, she has served on many Prescott-area community boards.

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