Post submitted by former HRC Communications Campaign Director Brandon Lorenz

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis of Kentucky has made headlines for ignoring a federal court order requiring her to issue marriage licenses to all qualified couples, and continuing to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Tomorrow she and her staff are scheduled to appear in federal court for a contempt hearing for failing to follow the Supreme Court’s decision. Davis, of course, is the exception to the rule, with an overwhelming majority of officials across the country fulfilling their responsibility to issue marriage licenses to same-sex and opposite-sex couples equally.

Thus far, her actions have split the field of 2016 candidates who have spoken the issue.

Jeb Bush: According to Buzzfeed: “Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said that the Kentucky clerk who is refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses is ‘sworn to uphold the law’ and that gay couples seeking marriage licenses should be allowed to get them. […] Bush said that a balance must be struck between Davis’ religious liberty and the right of couples to get married. ‘It seems to me that there ought to be common ground, there ought to be a big enough space for her to act on her conscience, and for now that the law is the law of the land, for a gay couple to be married in whatever jurisdiction that is,’ Bush said. ‘I’m a little confused about why that can’t be done.’”

Ben Carson:According to Talking Points Memo, “A well-known confidante of Dr. Ben Carson said Tuesday that questions about the candidate's views on a Kentucky clerk's refusal to grant marriage licenses to gay couples are just ‘trying to create something that's new.’ ‘Dr. Carson has said since the Supreme Court ruling that it is the law of land and that's what he respects,’ a highly agitated Armstrong Williams told TPM in a phone interview.” [Talking Points Memo, 9/1/2015]

Chris Christie:  Politico reported that “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took a similar stance to Fiorina's, saying that government employees have a ‘bit of a different obligation’ than regular citizens. Speaking during a radio interview with Laura Ingraham on Wednesday, Christie said it’s important both to allow for the exercise of religious freedom and to enforce the law.” 

Ted Cruz: The Dallas Morning News reported: “But when it comes to the Kentucky county clerk who is  defying a federal court order by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Cruz has struck a more measured tone than many of his rivals. In a Facebook post tonight, he condemned a ‘war on faith’ and said there needs to be a way to work around religious objections to federal and state law. ‘We should make it possible for believers, such as Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in Kentucky, to hold government jobs without having to violate their religious beliefs,’ wrote Cruz. ‘We can work together to come up with alternative ways to ensure that government functions are accomplished without infringing on religious liberty.’ Other 2016 contenders have explicitly endorsed Davis’ actions.”

Carly Fiorina: “Given the fact that the government is paying her salary, I think that is not appropriate,’’ Fiorina told Hugh Hewitt.

Lindsey Graham: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that because Kim Davis is a public official, she should ‘comply with the law or resign.’ ‘The rule of law is the rule of law,’ he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. ‘We are a rule of law nation.’”.

Mike Huckabee: The AP reported, “Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee supports a Kentucky clerk's refusal to issue marriage licenses because of her opposition to same-sex marriage. In a statement, Huckabee says he spoke Wednesday morning to Kim Davis to offer ‘prayers and support.’”

Bobby Jindal: Huffington Post reported that “Even though Davis is acting in her official capacity, Jindal still said that Davis shouldn't have to choose between her religious conscience and her job. ‘The United States didn't create religious liberty. Religious liberty created the United States of America. It's the reason we are here today. This is an essential freedom and an essential right and I don't think you give up this right by simply taking a job.’” 

John Kasich: From Dave Weigel at the Washington Post, “Asked about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who's refusing to issue marriage licenses, Kasich stopped the question. ‘I've taken my position on it,’ he said. ‘Glad you didn't touch on any hot button issues!’ Afterward, a spokesman said that Kasich was referring to his reaction to Obergefell v. Hodges. After saying that the decision "disappointed" him, Kasich ruled out any discussion of countermeasures.”

Rand Paul: Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel reported that home state Republican Rand Paul said that Davis’ refusal to serve LGBT couples is “part of the American way.” The same article noted that Paul is the cosponsor of a bill – the First Amendment Defense Act – that would give cover to public employees to pick and choose which laws they follow, and allow them to argue that they can refuse to process tax returns, visa applications or Social Security checks whenever a same-sex couple's paperwork appears on his or her desk.

Marco Rubio: The New York Times reported: “Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said on Wednesday that the government should respect the beliefs of the Kentucky county clerk who has denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples, arguing that society needs to accommodate public officials who object to carrying out duties they say violate their religious beliefs. ‘We should seek a balance between government’s responsibility to abide by the laws of our republic and allowing people to stand by their religious convictions,’ Mr. Rubio said in a statement to The New York Times, his first public remarks on the case. ‘While the clerk’s office has a governmental duty to carry out the law,’ he added, ‘there should be a way to protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of individuals working in the office.’”

Rick Santorum: The Hill reported: “Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) says he stands with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Santorum said that law enforcement officials should respect Rowan County clerk Kim Davis’s religious faith rather than punishing it.  ‘What Kim Davis did, in my opinion, was heroic,’ he told host Chris Cuomo on CNN’s ‘New Day’ that morning. ‘I commend her for standing up for her principles,’ the 2016 GOP presidential candidate added. ‘Putting her in jail is ridiculous.  It is an extreme position.’ […]Santorum argued on Friday that the landmark legal decision violates religious liberty and First Amendment rights. ‘We have a situation in which the Supreme Court acted unconstitutionally,’ he said. ‘Why are we putting someone in jail because they have a religious exception?’”

Donald Trump: CNN reported that “Republican front-runner Donald Trump said Friday that he wished a Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, was not jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but he added that the Supreme Court has ruled and it is ‘the law of the land.’ ‘You have to go with it. The decision's been made, and that is the law of the land,’ the real estate mogul said Friday on MSNBC's ‘Morning Joe.’ […] ‘I would say the simple answer is let her clerks do it,’ he said. ‘Now from what I understand she's not letting the clerks do it either. The other simple answer is rather than going through this -- because it's really a very, very sticky situation and terrible situation -- 30 miles away they have other places, they have many other places where you get licensed. And you have them actually quite nearby, that's another alternative.’” 

Scott Walker:  The New York Times reported, "Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin appeared less clear on his position. Asked by the radio host Laura Ingraham on Thursday if Ms. Davis should be compelled to issue marriage licenses, Mr. Walker said: 'It’s a balance that you’ve got to have in America between the laws that are out there, but ultimately ensuring the Constitution is upheld. I read that the Constitution is very clear, that people have the freedom of religion. That means you have the freedom to practice your religious beliefs out there.'"

Filed under: Federal Advocacy, Marriage

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