Kentucky county clerk must issue licenses

Kim Davis, the clerk in Rowan County, Ky., who quickly propelled herself to the center of a U.S. culture war by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, has every right to hold fast to her sincere religious beliefs, even to the extent of defying a direct U.S. Supreme Court order.

But as she learned Thursday, she does not have the right to stay out of jail — especially when she refuses to allow her deputies to issue the licenses, which are the responsibility of the office to which she was elected last year.

Same-sex couples have the right to marry in every state of the United States, and the Supreme Court delivered an opinion June 26 saying that right is protected by the Constitution.

Davis refused to comply with an Aug. 12 order from federal District Judge David L. Bunning, saying she must issue licenses. The Supreme Court said late Monday that she must comply.

Davis still refused, and Thursday, Bunning ordered her to jail. Five of her clerks said they would issue licenses, but Davis’ attorneys said she would not let them.

That’s active defiance of the law of the land, and people go to jail for it.

Davis cannot have it all. She is free to exercise her religious beliefs, but she cannot use her public office to force her beliefs on others.