Keep Calm and Clerk On
The five justices of the Supreme Court weren’t the only ones with a strong opinion on marriage.
And dozens of county clerks are risking everything to prove it. Five days after five justices bulldozed the votes of 50 million people, the Left was wrong to assume everyone would just fall in line. They didn’t count on an army of local officials standing in the wreckage of judicial activism, refusing to budge.
For most of them, it wasn’t a question of if their beliefs would come under attack, but when.
Like Jennifer Schoenrock, the wife of a disabled veteran and family breadwinner, they knew the day was coming when they’d have to choose between their convictions and their career. “I want to do the right thing,” Jennifer explained. And that means obeying God’s law — not man’s. After last week, these clerks take seriously the reality that their offices are the new front lines in the battle for religious liberty — and many of them have no intention of going quietly. As far as they’re concerned, a lot of things have changed since Friday, but their First Amendment rights weren’t one of them.
From small counties in Arkansas to busy towns in Texas, there are hundreds of people ready to defend the ground five unelected justices took from voters. The Court may have changed their definition of marriage, Kentucky clerk Chris Cockrell explained, but he isn’t prepared to change his. If that means going to jail, so be it. And according to the state’s ACLU, that’s no empty threat. “Two things can happen if a Kentucky clerk won’t issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple,” warned one law professor. “They can resign or go to jail.”
And don’t think the Left won’t send them. This week, the Kentucky County Clerks Association says it’s been swamped with cries for help from local officials after Governor Steve Beshear (D) ordered government workers to abide by the ruling. Resistance comes with a heavy price: a year in prison for “first-degree official misconduct.”
That doesn’t scare Rowan County clerk (and Democrat) Kim Davis. Like a lot of offices, hers shut down the marriage license window altogether — in part because so many of her co-workers object. “What has happened is that five lawyers have imposed their personal view of what the definition of marriage should be on the rest of us. And I, as a Christian, have strong views too. And I know I don’t stand alone.”
Gay activists have started picketing Davis’s office, but she refuses to resign. If the government won’t force her, the ACLU vows to. Which may be why the only people busier than state officials are U.S. attorneys. On both sides, offices have been inundated with requests for legal help. In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton has promised to find legal representation for any government official whose beliefs are under attack.
That could be several. Of the 254 counties in Texas, less than half (114) told the AP they were “ready and willing” to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Nationally, nonprofit groups like Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Institute are already responding to the marriage whirlwind, flying to the aid of clerks and other officials everywhere.
In some states, the turmoil is even splitting the executive and legislative branches. After Governor Asa Hutchinson (R)insisted that Arkansas comply with the Court, state representatives swore to stand by clerks who refuse. “We affirm our support for Amendment 83 of the Arkansas Constitution as overwhelmingly passed by the people in 2004. We refuse to simply shrug our shoulders and abandon basic principles that have guided our country successfully the past 239 years. We will work with other conservative leaders in our state and across the nation… [to] explore all available options.”
Down in Mississippi, the handful of clerks handing in their resignation letters includes Linda Barnette. After 24 years, the Grenada County Baptist said that when it came to her job or her faith, there was never any real debate. “My final authority is the Bible,” she told Fox News’s Todd Starnes. In her mind, the battle is finally at the church’s door. “Christians are being put to the test,” she said. ‘We’re going to see the true Christians who stand. It’s going to be time to stop talking the talk. It’s going to come down to that.”
One man who knows about walking the walk is Governor Bobby Jindal (R-La.). Fortunately, the Louisiana governor was as prepared for this as he would be for any local disaster and had the foresight to protect religious liberty in law. People in Indiana and Arizona weren’t so lucky. Their governors either watered down their legislation — or refused to pass it altogether — leaving officials without the legal firewall they need to keep the Left at bay. If the ACLU wants to sue Governor Jindal, let them. “The Left likes to pick and choose which liberties they support at any given time,” he jabbed.
The reality is, the First Amendment has been around a lot longer than whatever “rights” the Court invented June 26. And with a growing chorus of conservative leaders, Bobby Jindal is willing to go to the mat to defend them. Your state officials should too. Contact your leaders and ask them to follow in the footsteps of courageous conservatives like Governor Jindal and Ken Paxton. Also, don’t miss the Governor in his own words from yesterday’s radio interview on “Washington Watch.”
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