By now, many thought the Kim Davis saga would be over. Or at least hoped it would be.
The worst part is it all could have been stopped with a compromise.
Yet, the sage continues to rekindle almost weekly and last week, the fire returned.
According to her lawyers, Davis had a private meeting with the Pope during his visit to the United States. On Friday, however, the Vatican said otherwise or attempted to distance themselves on what actually occurred. This created more stories for media outlets to run with. You can add another as Governor Steve Beshear’s lawyers told the media Davis’ arguments against not issuing marriage licenses are “absurd” and “obtuse.” They had to get their two cents in.
To me, this saga should have ended not on June 26 when same-sex couples won the right to marriage following the Supreme Court’s ruling, but it should have never started.
Many knew a decision would be made this year. And many political observers believed it was more than likely that same-sex marriages would become legal.
Why didn’t the legislature or Governor Beshear prepare for this? Isn’t it better to be proactive than reactive?
Beshear could have pushed for similar legislation which Utah passed in March or even asked for it in a special session once the ruling did come down.
Dr. Charles Haynes noted in a recent column that the Utah legislature passed compromise legislation that went a long way toward both protecting religious liberty and prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people. One of the law’s key provisions ensures that county clerks’ offices perform marriages and that a clerk be available to marry same-sex couples.
His column stated a clerk may opt out of performing gay marriage if, and only if, other clerks are readily available to issue the license and perform the ceremony. A clerk who chooses to opt out of gay marriage may not perform any marriages.
Haynes added that under this arrangement, gay couples are served (they will not know who, if anyone, in the clerk’s office has opted out) and religious claims of conscience are accommodated.
When the announcement came on June 26, Governor Beshear informed Kentucky’s county clerks that the Commonwealth “will recognize as valid all same-sex marriages performed in other states and in Kentucky.”
In the three-plus months since the historic ruling, Beshear has stuck by those comments despite several clerks refusing to listen to him or the Supreme Court.
Three county clerks in Kentucky have put up fights and none larger than Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis. The biggest difference between her and the others is a lawsuit.
Davis was sued by four couples — two same-sex and two opposite-sex — after refusing to issue marriage licenses to any couple. She was eventually jailed for her refusal to comply and numerous rallies — one even featuring a presidential candidate — have been held supporting her. There have been just as many condemning her.
Davis and many of the clerks who are uneasy — or unwilling — to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples over their religious beliefs have asked the Governor to step in. He’s refused.
Beshear has citied cost as the main reason. He said on July 27 “I’m not fixing to go out and waste $60,000 a day of taxpayers’ money to do something the legislature can do five months from now,”
It’s been more than two months since Beshear’s comments and it’s hard not to believe this controversy hasn’t cost the state of Kentucky more than the $60,000 day it would have taken to call a special session.
The stories on Davis haven’t slowed and she became a national story when she was jailed. Instead of Kentucky news outlets reporting on her refusal to issue licenses, the nation and whole world are now aware.
These stories can’t be good for Kentucky. P.T. Barnum once said any publicity is good publicity. But is this the type of publicity Beshear really wants the world to see about Kentucky?
I doubt it. It’s not the image any of us in Kentucky want.
After all, I thought the governor was supposed to look out and do what is best for the Commonwealth. And sometimes, that means being the bigger person and working on a compromise.