In Wednesday’s Republican debate, the candidates seemed split on whether or not to support Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk jailed for defying a federal judge’s order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The issue is seen by many to be over, especially by those on the left side of the political spectrum. However, the only way to reverse the Supreme court ruling approving of gay marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges) would be to pass a constitutional amendment.
A constitutional amendment is a long, arduous process, and it may be passed by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, two-thirds of the people in both houses do not support ending gay marriage at this time.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum were against the Supreme Court ruling and delivered a strong showing of support for Davis, according to MSNBC.
Former New York Governor George Pataki and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham advocated for the rule of law.
Graham said that the Supreme Court’s June decision that found state same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional is “the law of the land.”
Donald Trump has also said the same thing. “You have to go with it. The decision’s been made, and that is the law of the land,” the real estate mogul said earlier this month on the TV news show “Morning Joe.”
Graham turned the conversation to national security threats.
“Were you the wedding cake baker, or the gay couple or the baptist preacher, radical Islam would kill you if they could,” Graham said. “Let’s not lose sight of the big picture.”
Jindal was the first candidate to bring up Davis, prompting CNN’s moderator Jake Tapper to note that the candidates were clearly “chomping at the bit” to discuss her case.
When asked how Jindal would balance his pledge to root out Islamic terrorists with making sure Muslims aren’t subjected to discrimination, Jindal said that “right now, the biggest discrimination going on is against Christian business owners and individuals who believe in traditional forms of marriage.”
“Let’s talk about the Christian florist, the caterer, the musician,” Jindal said, referring to high-profile lawsuits in which religious business owners refused to provide wedding services to same-sex couples in states with laws barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Most states actually have no such protections for same-sex couples, but Democratic lawmakers at the federal level are trying provide them with it. However, that bill, known as the Equality Act, stands little chance of clearing the GOP-controlled Congress.
Surprisingly, neither does its legislative opponent – the First Amendment Defense Act – which would prohibit the federal government from taking “discriminatory action” against people or companies that believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Though the bill has a tremendous number of Republican co-sponsors in both the House and Senate, Republican leaders seem reluctant to move it forward.
Santorum said he would pass the First Amendment Defense Act as president, and invoked Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter from a Birmingham jail as justification to defy the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.
“[Dr. King] said there are just laws and there are unjust laws, and we have no obligation to follow unjust laws,” Santorum said. “I would argue that what the Supreme Court did is against natural law, God’s law, and we have every obligation to stand in opposition to it.”
Former Governor George Pataki said Davis had an obligation as an elected official to follow the rule of law and that if she were working for him, he would have fired her, though as an elected official, she couldn’t actually be fired, according to MSNBC.
Tapper tried to recreate the rift over Davis during the prime time debate, but he found former Governors Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jeb Bush of Florida more united on the topic than their other competitors.
Huckabee is a former Baptist pastor who escorted Davis out of jail last week to much fanfare. He said that the Supreme Court had crossed into the realm of “judicial tyranny” with its marriage ruling.
Bush said in a statement earlier this month that Davis was “sworn to uphold the law,” but he backed away from that position during Wednesday’s debate. He said he agreed with Huckabee that Davis deserved an accommodation to allow for other people in the clerk’s office to issue the licenses without her authority.
“If the law needs to be changed in the state of Kentucky, which is what she’s advocating, it should be changed.”
Kentucky law states that marriage licenses should be issued by the clerk of court, but Davis has taken her name and title off of the form. This may have jeopardized the validity of marriage licenses issued since her incarceration.