Last week's column about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk in legal hot water for refusing to recognize same-sex marriages, kicked up a lot of discussion. Not surprising. What was surprising - and alarming - were comments that showed a complete lack of knowledge of how the federal government works and the role of the Supreme Court.
Davis objects to the Supreme Court decision that made gay marriage legal across the U.S. Rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she instructed her office to stop issuing licenses altogether. When ordered to start issuing them again by a judge, she refused, earning a contempt of court citation and a few days in jail.
Some support her. Some think she should quit. But the alarming response went along these lines: She did nothing wrong because the Supreme Court only issued an "opinion," and an "opinion" doesn't carry the force of law.
That is, quite simply, wrong.
We have many rights and protections in this great country, and many of them are rooted in our foundational document, the Constitution. One of the most important is equal protection under the law. We are not supposed to be subject to the whims and prejudices of whoever happens to hold a seat of power at any particular time. Furthermore, majority, power-holding groups are not supposed to use that status to deny life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness to those who don't belong to the dominant group.
That's what happened for far too long with same-sex marriage. Consenting adults in long-term relationships were being denied a legal status open to just about everyone else in America. The Supreme Court decided (narrowly, unfortunately) that this denial did not square with the Constitution, and rightly invalidated the discriminatory laws.
It's one thing to read wrongheadedness about the court's role on the Daily Miner comment boards. It's another thing entirely to hear it from a national political figure.
Professional presidential candidate Mike Huckabee argued in an interview recently that Davis was justified in defying the law, just as Americans are justified in defying the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which held that black people aren't citizens and don't have the rights of citizens. Huckabee said that decision is still "the law of the land."
Seriously. He said that.
It's balderdash, of course. It was law at one point, but the 13th and 14th Amendments to the grand ol' Constitution banned slavery and granted citizenship to those born or naturalized in the U.S. The 14th Amendment also contains that "equal protection" language discussed earlier.
No more Dred Scott decision.
This is the last, desperate gasp of same-sex marriage opponents. They couldn't win on merit, so they try to delegitimize the institution that handed them defeat. The Supreme Court isn't perfect. Nor is the Constitution. But both have done a pretty good job of protecting our rights, even if it sometimes takes a while to reach resolution.
Soon enough, people like Huckabee and Davis will fade away. People will get married, the sky will not fall, and life will go on.