On the first day of the U.S. Supreme Court’s fall term, the high court rejected the appeal of former Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. Davis garnered national attention in 2015 after being jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on the grounds that doing so would have violated her religious beliefs.
Although the court was unanimous in refusing to hear her appeal, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito took advantage of the opportunity to reiterate their arguments against Obergefell v. Hodges, stating that the court’s landmark same-sex marriage ruling in 2015—shortly before the initial lawsuit lodged against Davis—threatens people of faith.
“As a result of this court’s alteration of the Constitution, Davis found herself faced with a choice between her religious beliefs and her job,” Thomas wrote. “When she chose to follow her faith, and without any statutory protection of her religious beliefs, she was sued almost immediately for violating the constitutional rights of same-sex couples.”
Liberty Counsel, the law firm representing Davis, argues that as a government official, she was protected by qualified immunity and should not be required to personally pay for the attorney’s fees of the plaintiffs’ counsel.
Thomas and Alito, who were two of the four justices who strongly dissented in the Obergefell case, reminded the public of the danger the ruling has on religious liberty:
“In Obergefell v. Hodges, the court read a right to same-sex marriage into the Fourteenth Amendment, even though that right is found nowhere in the text. Several members of the court noted that the court’s decision would threaten the religious liberty of the many Americans who believe that marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman. If the states had been allowed to resolve this question through legislation, they could have included accommodations for those who hold these religious beliefs.
“The court, however, bypassed that democratic process,” Thomas wrote. “Worse still, though it briefly acknowledged that those with sincerely held religious objections to same-sex marriage are often ‘decent and honorable,’ the court went on to suggest that those beliefs espoused a bigoted worldview.
“Davis may have been one of the first victims of this court’s cavalier treatment of religion in its Obergefell decision, but she will not be the last,” he warned. “Due to Obergefell, those with sincerely held religious beliefs concerning marriage will find it increasingly difficult to participate in society without running afoul of Obergefell and its effect on other anti-discrimination laws.
“… the court has created a problem that only it can fix,” Thomas ended. “Until then, Obergefell will continue to have ‘ruinous consequences for religious liberty.’”
Although Davis’ appeal was ultimately rejected, Liberty Counsel is encouraged by Thomas and Alito’s scathing rebuke of Obergefell.
“Even though the high court declined to take up qualified immunity, Justices Thomas and Alito are inviting future challenges regarding Obergefell and to fix the mess the court created,” said Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel founder and chairman.
Above: Former Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis
Photo: John Cornelius/Alamy Stock Photo