Was SCOTUS right not to hear the case of jailed clerk refusing same-sex marriages?


Fact Box

  • On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. 
  • After the 2015 decision, former Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, refused to marry gay couples based on her religious beliefs. She was sued over her refusal to issue marriage licenses and temporarily jailed
  • On Monday, Davis’ appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court. However, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said, “Obergefell will continue to have ruinous consequences for religious liberty” until the court solves the disconnect between constitutional right and religious freedom.
  • 67% of Americans say same-sex marriage should be recognized by law as valid.

Stephanie (No)

The Supreme Court should have heard Kim Davis's appeal, as her conflict in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples has been said to be 'an assault on religious liberty.' Being a 'devout Christian,' she had every right to fight for her belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. After all, she was initially arrested based on the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Justice Clarence Thomas, who voted not to hear the appeal by honoring the 2015 ruling, admitted that, 'by choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the court has created a problem that only it can fix.'

The ACLU's claim that the 'brazenness of the rightward direction of the court [being] a threat to even the most basic expectation of legal protection' is ironic considering the outright attack on the First Amendment. Conversely, the legalization of same-sex marriage is ''found nowhere in the text' of the Constitution.'

Obergefell v. Hodges is said to place increased hardship on those who object for faith-based reasons. Thomas, along with Justice Samuel Alito, criticized the ruling, arguing that because of it, religious individuals 'will find it increasingly difficult to participate in society without running afoul.'

The only upside of this decision is that it is evidence the Supreme Court does not automatically rule in favor of conservative parties and that another conservative nominee is not as problematic as the left is claiming. Yet, given the commentary, it is admittedly inconsistent that SCOTUS did not at least hear the appeal.

Andrew (Yes)

As a US government clerk, Kim Davis's occupation makes it impossible for her religious views to lawfully factor into her on-the-job decision-making. She must issue marriage licenses according to the law. There is no reason that the Supreme Court needs to be involved in this issue. This is simply a case of an employee not doing her job correctly. Further, if Davis found that parts of her occupation did not comply with her religious views, she should have left the position or looked for another solution.

Many who view this case in terms of the government infringing on the religious freedoms of Kim Davis fail to view the glaringly obvious other side of the coin. Why should any couple wishing to marry be subjected to David's interpretation of her religion? Isn't this an even more egregious stifling of rights? Couples in Davis's jurisdiction must obtain their marriage license from Davis's office. Anyone who disallows a person's legal rights to obtain these certificates is the offender doing the actual infringing. The Supreme Court need not re-litigate this simple concept.

This was not a decision made along ideological lines; even the conservative justices who spoke out against the original ruling agreed that the court should not hear the case. This proves there is no reason, legal or ideological, for the court to hear the case. SCOTUS made the right decision by deciding not to hear an appeal in Kim Davis's case. By making this decision, the court has restored religious liberties to those not wishing to be subjected to Davis's beliefs and not frivolously re-litigated a case that has already been decided.

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