As Rowan County clerk Kim Davis goes to federal court today at 11:00 am to explain to the judge why she should not be held in contempt of court for violating court orders to do her job and issue marriage licenses, she may want to consider that the support for her position is not great from high-profile Republicans. Simon Maloy has rounded up the reactions of Republican presidential candidates. Certified nutcases Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal of course back Davis. Kentucky senator Rand Paul was vaguely supportive of Davis in an obfuscatory way designed to give him some flexibility to back away. Carly Fiorina, on the other hand, urges Davis to give up or resign. The other candidates, and senate majority leader Mitch McConnell who represents Kentucky, all seem to be ducking the issue. [UPDATE: Caitlin MacNeal provides more information on the candidates’ views.]
I argued earlier that the Republican party might secretly welcome a US Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage because it would remove that albatross hanging around their necks. Opposition to same-sex marriage is a losing proposition, especially among the young, with only the aging fundamentalist Christians still fervently fighting it. Once the court legalized it, Republican politicians and party leaders could quietly wash their hands of the issue. They could say that they believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman, yadda yadda, Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve, yadda, yadda, Bible, Jesus, yaddas, yadda, but unfortunately the courts have said otherwise and there is nothing we can do so let’s move on. The dead-enders would talk about a constitutional amendment but that would soon die out.
But people like Davis have gummed up the works by keeping the issue alive and it is interesting that very few high profile Republicans have come to her support. Even Dick Cheney says that Davis should follow the law and serve gays. Jonathan Adler, a well-known conservative legal scholar (also a colleague of mine at this university), writes that based on past writings, even justice Antonin Scalia would expect Davis to resign if she is not willing to issue licenses to same-sex couples.
As Amanda Marcotte writes, other normally virulent opponents of same-sex marriage are also urging Davis to throw in the towel.
The support for Davis amongst more mainstream conservatives has been, at best, muted, even from those who built their career on hating gay people. Maggie Gallagher, whose life’s work has been opposing same-sex marriage, limply wrote in the National Review, “There is no way to maintain the rule of law if public officials can ignore direct court orders.”
The most belligerently anti-gay writer at the Heritage Foundation, Ryan Anderson, wrote, “The citizens of Rowan County have a right to receive in a timely and efficient manner the various government provisions—including licenses—to which they are entitled.” If you peruse conservative media, it becomes clear that they’re more bent out of shape about Obama letting Alaska name its own mountain than they are about this woman’s supposed martyrdom.
Rod Dreher writing in The American Conservative also says that Davis should do her job or resign.
Not everyone is abandoning her. Closer to home there is some support. Republican candidate for governor of Kentucky Matt Bevin is steadfastly backing her, at least for now.
“I absolutely support her willingness to stand on her First Amendment rights,” he said. “Without any question I support her.”
The strong defense of Davis’ actions underscores how the GOP nominee hopes to make the fight over gay marriage a centerpiece of the 2015 governor’s race, which polling shows is a tight race between him and Democratic nominee Jack Conway.
As the state’s attorney general, Conway refused to appeal the initial federal ruling against the state’s same-sex marriage ban last year. Conway campaign spokesman Daniel Kemp said the Supreme Court has spoken on the issue of same-sex marriage and that Conway “believes it’s time to move forward because the good-paying jobs are going to states with policies of inclusivity.”
But as an NPR report this morning pointed out, even people in eastern Kentucky and the town of Morehead who agree with Davis and oppose same-sex marriage are leery of government officials refusing to do their jobs because of their personal beliefs and think that if her beliefs are that important to her, she should just resign. This view has been echoed by others.
In interviews in downtown Morehead and on the campus of Morehead State University, local residents said they were surprised by the national attention to Davis’ protest — and they were divided over her policy.
Cox said her “baffling” decision to disobey “the law of the land” has put Rowan County in a bad light, and Jerry Martin, a physics and engineering student at the university, said he worries that “we are fulfilling the hillbilly stereotype.”
Morehead News Publisher Keith Kappes bemoaned in an editorial that the city is a victim of “guilt by geography” and has been “bombarded … with nasty comments” because of Davis’ protest.
Morehead State President Wayne D. Andrews was compelled to issue an official statement championing the university’s commitment to diversity and saying that “elected officials should obey the law and do their jobs.”
But what should really concern Davis is that even her own lawyers are hedging on who would pay any fines that are levied on her.
Liberty is providing their legal services at no cost to Davis, but have not discussed payment on any potential fines, the group’s founder and Chairman Mathew Staver told Reuters in an email.
“However, we do know that there is a lot of support for Kim Davis in the event that she is fined. And we believe that there would be sufficient number of people that would help cover some or all of it,” Staver said.
I find it incredible that these lawyers have supported Davis in her decision to defy the courts without discussing the almost certain consequence that she would be held in contempt, and making plans in advance for how she would pay the fines. They seem to be simply hoping that support will somehow materialize. The Indiegogo fundraising goal of $75,000 raised just $2 in five days and now that page has disappeared altogether, not a good sign for her.
I hope that those close to her will urge her to come to her senses and issue the licenses before things get really bad for her. But I fear that she has become imprisoned in a martyr’s straightjacket and will not be able to wriggle out.