Editorials

In Kentucky, conservatives hail a false hero

AP

Kim Davis feels strongly enough about her opposition to gay marriage that she went to jail over it in Kentucky. The Rowan County clerk had refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Now, having been released, she’s basking in attention from right-wing Republican presidential candidates such as Mike Huckabee, who in a shameless play to the most conservative Republicans offered to go to jail for Davis.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz visited her in jail.

While Davis’ action may make her a champion in some circles, she was violating the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that in effect legalized gay marriage in all states. And though she presents herself as a symbol of religious conviction, public officials do not take the oath of office and accept their public salaries (in her case, $80,000) with the option of not doing their duty. Davis is entitled to invoke her conscience and her Bible in refusing to carry out duties she believes go against her beliefs. She can do so by resigning.

But neither her state nor her country gives such officials the right to pick and choose which laws they’ll enforce. Law enforcement officers, judges and elected officials have to act in accordance with the law. Their personal beliefs can’t trump their sworn duty.

Davis’ post is an elected one, so she’ll likely not be turned out of office. But a federal judge warned her that she was not to interfere with the legal licensing process again. He should stand firmly behind that warning.

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