FRANKFORT — If the subject matter (the 14th Amendment's "equal protection of the laws" clause) weren't so serious, each new scene in the farce being acted out in Kentucky about public officials' angst over issuing same-sex marriage licenses would leave me rolling on the floor with laughter.
Even though I've managed to stay off the floor (so far), I've still enjoyed some serious chuckles. Because I haven't seen such wonderful comic performances by people too clueless to even recognize they are being comical since I was writing about former Gov. Ernie Fletcher's BlackBerry Jam some 10 years ago.
Start with the first act, when Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis explained her decision to issue no marriage licenses at all rather than issue a license to a same-sex couple by saying, "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."
Forget the minor detail about the five lawyers being justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, where five votes are all it takes to settle constitutional issues big and small. Focus instead on Kim Davis complaining about five people imposing their definition of marriage on her as a rationalization for her decision to impose one person's definition of marriage (hers) on everyone in Rowan County. All the while being clueless about the hypocrisy of her own words. Laughable.
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If there is justice in this world, she (rather than the taxpayers of Rowan County) will be personally responsible for the costs incurred when she inevitably loses the lawsuit filed against her by four Rowan County couples (two opposite-sex, two same-sex).
Then, there's Casey County Clerk Casey Davis, who is squeezing every last nanosecond out of his 15 minutes of infamy by claiming on national TV this issue has put him in "prison" because of his religious beliefs and by repeatedly begging Gov. Steve Beshear for "relief" from fulfilling his oath of office.
First and foremost in the oath Casey Davis and other public officials in Kentucky take is a vow to "support the Constitution of the United States." Following the Supreme Court decision, the U.S. Constitution (which trumps all state constitutions and state laws) now requires Casey Davis and all other county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. And Kentucky statutes make it a Class A misdemeanor for a public official to refrain "from performing a duty imposed upon him by law."
Since the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom does not supersede the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law, if there is justice in this world, some prosecutor with spine (Attorney General Jack Conway perhaps?) will seize the opportunity to take Casey Davis up on his repeatedly stated willingness to go to jail for his intolerant beliefs. Perhaps that will teach him to stop making dumb "prison" jokes.
But the Davises are not alone. Chris Jobe, president of the Kentucky County Clerks Association, said 57 county clerks signed a letter urging Beshear to call a special legislative session on the issue, presumably to produce legislation designed to relieve them of their duty to live up to their oaths of office. The minimum cost for such a session would be at least $300,000.
Here's a thought for all county clerks, whose six-figure salaries are paid by taxpayers both heterosexual and homosexual: Get over it. The Supreme Court has spoken, and same-sex marriage is the law of the land. Your choices now are do your jobs, resign or prepare to get sued and/or prosecuted.
Of course, no Kentucky political melodrama would be complete without our stalwart statesmen in General Assembly leadership providing their own comic relief.
Senate Republican leaders suggested Beshear issue an executive order solving county clerks' crisis of faith in honoring their oaths. Considering Republicans' condemnation of Beshear for implementing the Affordable Care Act by executive order, the suggestion that he wield his pen again on this issue was more laughably hypocritical than the Rowan County clerk's explanation of her intolerant beliefs.
Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo joined the county clerks' chorus calling for a special session. Which raised the question in my mind: When did he lose his spine and senses? If there is a semi-hero in this farce, it is Beshear. "Semi-" because he needlessly wasted tens of thousands of tax dollars trying to defend Kentucky's indefensible constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. "Hero" because, once the Supreme Court spoke, he immediately did the right thing by telling county clerks and executive branch agencies to abide by the court's decision. And because he rightly said no to the calls for a special session.
Anything needing to be done to conform Kentucky statutes to the Supreme Court decision can wait until January, when the circus makes its next regularly scheduled appearance in the state Capitol.