Federal Judge David Bunning — appointed by a Republican president and son of a former Republican U.S. senator who could hardly be called liberal — did a brilliant and brave thing yesterday by upholding the rule of law in this country. For everyone.
As a result, Friday morning same-sex couples who have endured the repeated humiliation of being turned away when they sought a marriage license at their county clerk's office will be treated fairly under the law, like the citizens and taxpayers they are.
One of the women who has unsuccessfully sought a marriage license in Rowan County, April Miller, told Bunning that Davis' stand "marginalizes us again."
The legal wrangling and public sermonizing over Davis' refusal to issue the licenses has been going on since June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
Quickly, the Rowan County couples at the heart of the matter receded in the circus as partisan politics, camera-hungry protestors and lawyers and an influx of national and international media dominated the story.
But Bunning on Thursday got down to the matter at hand.
He has his own religious beliefs as a Catholic, he told Davis, but that's not the point. "In this country, we live in a society of laws." And the law now says that Miller and her partner of 10 years have the right to marry.
Five of Davis' six deputy clerks said they were willing to issue the licenses, even if they'd rather not. Only her 21-year-old son refused.
When Davis told Bunning she would even block her deputies from issuing licenses she left him no choice but to put her in jail for contempt of court.
"Our system of justice requires citizens — and significantly, elected officials — to follow the rules of the courts," he told her.
This is particularly, and critically, true when elected officials use the power of their offices to deprive others of their rights, as Davis has been doing.
Davis has put her personal concerns and beliefs above the constitutional rights of the citizens of Rowan County.
No election gives her — or any official — the right to do that.