June 26, the Supreme Court handed down its 5-to-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, legalizing same-sex marriage. After 24 years at her post, Grenada County, Mississippi, Circuit Court Clerk Linda Barnette announced June 30 this made it impossible to do her job.
“I am resigning before my term expires,” she wrote in a letter to the county’s board of supervisors. “The Supreme Court’s decision violates my core values as a Christian. My final authority is the Bible. I cannot in all good conscience issue a marriage license to same sex couples under my name because the Bible certainly teaches that homosexuality is contrary to God’s plan and purpose for marriage and family. I choose to obey God rather than man.”
While I disagree with Barnette, I can’t quibble with how she handled herself. She wouldn’t follow the law and she did the right thing by the citizens who paid her salary: She quit. Possessing no such integrity, others — including Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk Kim Davis — wouldn’t be going as quietly.
“[Davis] has appealed a judge’s decision to put her in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses,” reported The Associated Press Sunday. “Davis objects to same-sex marriage for religious reasons and stopped issuing all marriage licenses in June after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her. U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to issue the licenses and the Supreme Court upheld his ruling. But Davis still refused to do it, saying she could not betray her conscience. Thursday, Bunning ruled Davis was in contempt of court for disobeying his order and sent her to jail. Her deputy clerks then issued marriage licenses to gay couples Friday with Davis behind bars.”
While Davis represents the most famous case of barring all marriage licenses because of this ruling, she is by no means alone. The day the Obergefell ruling was handed down, Mississippi statehouse judiciary chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, told The Clarion-Ledger’s Geoff Pender his state might stop issuing licenses altogether.
“I don’t know if it would be better to have no marriage certificate sponsored by the state or not,” he said. “But it’s an option out there to be considered.”
In Australia — where same-sex marriage is still illegal — one couple has threatened to take a torch to their own marriage if that country’s laws were to change. Nick Jensen — director of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute and spouse of Dr. Sarah Jensen — announced this bizarre marital hostage situation in a June 10 column for Canberra CityNews.
“My wife and I just celebrated our 10-year anniversary,” he wrote. “But later this year, we may be getting a divorce. The reason has nothing to do with the state of our marriage. ... My wife is the only woman I have ever loved, the mother of our children, my perfect match. … You see, after our divorce, we’ll continue to live together, hopefully for another 50 years. And, God willing, we’ll have more children. We’ll also continue to refer to each other as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ and consider ourselves married by the church and before God. … My wife and I, as a matter of conscience, refuse to recognize the government’s regulation of marriage if its definition includes the solemnisation of same-sex couples. … This is why we are willing to divorce. By changing the definition of marriage, ‘marriage’ will, in years to come, have an altogether different sense and purpose.”
Over and over in the years leading up to Obergefell, I kept hearing the argument that same-sex marriage would threaten the institution of marriage. This line always baffled me, as I saw no effect on my — or any other straight couple’s — marriage based on the legality or illegality of same-sex marriage. Apparently, Davis, Gipson, Jensen and their ilk are willing to blow up the very idea of legal marriage if they can’t have their way.
I never saw this one coming. But, what can I say? I love a twist ending!